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UN strongly condemns 37 executions in Saudi Arabia

25th Apr 2019
UN strongly condemns 37 executions in Saudi Arabia

By Bayram Altug


GENEVA (AA): The UN on Wednesday strongly condemned the executions of 37 men in Saudi Arabia, who were accused of alleged terrorism charges. The execution took place on April 23. 34 of those executed were Shia Muslims. Prime Minister, Theresa May, has not commented on the executions.

“I strongly condemn these shocking mass executions across six cities in Saudi Arabia yesterday in spite of grave concerns raised about these cases by numerous UN Special Rapporteurs, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and others,” said High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

Bachelet criticized Saudi authorities for a lack of due process and guarantees of fair trial, allegations of torture, and the ages of some of those executed.

“It is particularly abhorrent that at least three of those killed were minors at the time of their sentencing,” Bachelet said in a written statement.

One of the men’s bodies was subsequently put on public display, according to the statement.

Bachalet said most of those executed belonged to the country’s minority Shi’a Muslim community.

At least 34 of the executed prisoners were Shia Muslim activists, professionals, religious scholars and a number of young men who were detained when they were minors

She urged Saudi authorities to “immediately launch a review of its counter-terrorism legislation and amend the law to expressly prohibit the imposition of the death penalty against minors.”

“I appeal to the authorities to halt the pending executions and to engage constructively with the UN Human Rights Office and independent experts on the many concerns related to the imposition of the death penalty in the country,” she said.

The three minors as reported by human rights group Reprieve are:

Abdulkarim al-Hawaj was charged with participating in demonstrations, incitement via social media and preparing banners with anti-state slogans. He was beaten, tortured with electricity and chained with his hands above his head until he ‘confessed’ to terrorism offences.

Mujtaba al-Sweikat was arrested at King Fahd International Airport, on his way to begin his studies at Western Michigan University. He was severely beaten all over his body, including the soles of his feet, and convicted on the basis of a confession extracted through torture.

Salman Qureish was arrested shortly after his 18th birthday, accused of crimes that took place when he was a juvenile. He was denied basic legal rights and sentenced to death in a mass trial, despite repeated interventions on his behalf by the United Nations.

Many of the others executed were also tortured into signing confessions. Munir al-Adam was beaten so badly he lost the hearing in one ear. Abbas al-Hassan was beaten while blindfolded, forced to stand in stress positions for hours and deprived of sleep.

Leader of Liberal Democrats, Sir Vince Cable raised the issue of executions.

“Was the Government aware that at least three of these 37 were minors, and most appear to have been tortured into making confessions – in flagrant breaches of International Law?

“Isn’t the UK moral position on this compromised by our continued supply of arms for use in the civil war in Yemen?”, Cable asked Foreign Office Minister, Sir Alan Duncan.

The Government Minister did not condemn the executions. Instead he said: “We are very concerned by the executions of 37 men in Saudi Arabia, and the Foreign Office is working to establish the full facts. The Foreign Secretary will be raising this matter with the Saudi authorities at the earliest opportunity.”

Sir Vince reminded the Minister about his predecessor’s statement on 7 March 2018 that the Foreign Office was

“concerned with those cases where minors might have been indicted” but that he had received assurances on that matter?”

The Minister side stepped the question of Sir Vince, instead he said: “The right hon. Gentleman is right to point out that one of the grave concerns about these executions is that they would appear to include minors, or those who were minors at the time that the charges were made. This is of course totally unacceptable and we deplore it”.

No Muslim MPs asked any questions on the executions during this urgent question.

The Saudi Press Agency announced the executions: “The death penalty was implemented on a number of criminals for adopting extremist terrorist ideologies and forming terrorist cells to corrupt and disrupt security as well as spreading chaos and provoking sectarian strife.”

*Writing by Zehra Nur Duz

Additional report by The Muslim News.

[Map of Saudi Arabia. Creative Commons]

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