UN rights experts urge Saudi Arabia to immediately halt child executions

Credit: OHCHR

22 September 2015 – A group of independent United Nations human rights experts today urged the Saudi Arabian Government to stop the imminent execution of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, convicted for a crime he allegedly committed as a child.

According to a press release, Mr. al-Nimr, then a high school student, was arrested in 2012 when he was 17 by the Saudi authorities for his reported participation in ‘Arab Spring’ protests in Qatif, Eastern Province. The Specialized Criminal Court in May 2015 sentenced him to death for joining a criminal group and attacking police officers. He was reportedly subjected to torture and ill treatment by the General Investigation Directorate which forced him to confess the charges against him.

“Confessions obtained under torture are unacceptable and cannot be used as evidence before court. Any judgment imposing the death penalty upon persons who were children at the time of the offence, and their execution, are incompatible with Saudi Arabia’s international obligations,” said the Special Rapporteurs, while recalling the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Saudi Arabia is a party.

As per the news release, Mr. al-Nimr’s appeal made by his lawyer was heard without prior notification and the proceedings fell short of international standards.

“Mr. al-Nimr did not receive a fair trial and his lawyer was not allowed to properly assist him and was prevented from accessing the case file. International law, accepted as binding by Saudi Arabia, provides that capital punishment may only be imposed following trials that comply with the most stringent requirements of fair trial and due process, or could otherwise be considered an arbitrary execution,” said the experts.

The Special Rapporteurs also asked the Saudi authorities to “ensure a fair retrial of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr and to immediately halt the scheduled execution.”

Two other individuals are at risk of an imminent execution after being arrested for their participation in Qatif when they were children.

“We urge the Saudi authorities to establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, halt executions of persons convicted who were children at the time of the offence, and ensure a prompt and impartial investigation into all alleged acts of torture,” urged the human rights experts.

Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.


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