Both The Washington Post and Amnesty International this week detailed how several prominent feminists picked up by the Saudi authorities back in May have been subjected to sexual violence and torture. None of which makes for easy reading. The abuse is said to be physical as well as psychological, including: sleep deprivation, beatings, electric shocks and flogging. As a result, some of the women are said to have suffered uncontrollable shaking while others encountered difficulty standing. The activists were locked up on trumped up charges of maintaining illegal contact with foreign nations hostile to the Kingdom. In reality, their ‘crime’ was to have publicly lobbied — some of them for decades — to repeal the ban on women driving as well as bringing to an end the system of male guardianship. Those at the helm, however, viewed this as attempt to sully the Kingdom’s image on the international stage. After all reform had been pre-packaged and marketed as a man-made deal; courtesy of Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS). Thereby erasing the contributions made by women on these fronts. Yet those expecting Trump Town to take a stand will most certainly be disappointed. After all, the American president has already indicated that the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi will have no impact on US-Saudi relations. Despite the CIA’s own conclusion that MBS gave the order to kill. Thus if the targeted assassination of one man fails to shake up the White House — what hope is there for a bunch of women being subjected to systematic brutality? The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) must therefore be given immediate access to the detained activists on humanitarian grounds. None of whom has either been charged with any misdemeanour or been granted access to legal representation. This is unlawful detention by every name. The UN, too, cannot afford to stay silent on this matter. For the Kingdom is proving to be a rogue and murderous state in which survival means toeing certain lines that are anathema to freedom of expression as well as critical thinking. And Washington is not only complicit in this — it is acting as an enabler. In short, by backing MBS all the way to the bank, the Americans have lost whatever contrived moral authority they once lay claim to. Sadly, this will likely have little impact on their penchant for waging wars under the false banner of humanitarian intervention given the structural imbalance of power at the UN Security Council. But that does not mean that important blocs such as the EU should not take a principled stand and push ahead with a Union-wide arms embargo on Saudi Arabia. This would additionally highlight the mounting global pressure that the Trump presidency faces for being on the wrong side of history. From pulling out of the Paris Accord on climate change. To the unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. To the Jerusalem shuffle. Yet the upshot is that no international system of peace-loving nations has the right to name itself thus while the powerful are not brought to book. * Published in Daily Times, November 24th 2018.