UN chief calls on Iran, Saudi Arabia to avoid further exacerbating tensions after executions

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks on the telephone [file photo]. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

4 January 2016 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has phoned the Foreign Ministers of Saudi Arabia and Iran to urge both countries to avoid actions that could further exacerbate tensions after the recent Saudi executions, the attack on the Saudi embassy in Iran, and the rupture in diplomatic ties.

In his call to Saudi Foreign Minister Abel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir today, Mr. Ban reiterated his views on capital punishment, which he strongly opposes, and his disappointment at the execution of Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, whose case he raised with the Saudi authorities several times.

He also reiterated that the attack on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, Iran’s capital, was deplorable, but added that the announcement of a break in Saudi diplomatic relations with Iran was deeply worrying. Regarding Yemen, he urged Saudi Arabia to renew its commitment to a ceasefire.

Speaking to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif yesterday, Mr. Ban recalled his earlier statement voicing dismay at Saturday’s execution of Sheikh al-Nimr and 46 other prisoners by Saudi Arabia, as well as his condemnation of the attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran, and he urged the Minister to take the necessary measures to protect diplomatic facilities.

He urged both Ministers to avoid any actions that could further exacerbate the situation between two countries and in the region as a whole, stressing the importance of continued constructive engagement by them in the interest of the region and beyond.

In a statement by his spokesman on Saturday, Mr. Ban said Sheik al-Nimr and a number of the others executed “had been convicted following trials that raised serious concerns over the nature of the charges and the fairness of the process.”

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein yesterday stressed the strict requirements for carrying out the death sentence in those countries that still permitted it, including only for the most serious crimes, with a fair trial, full transparency, and the exclusion of confessions obtained under torture, when application of the death penalty is “unconscionable.”

“Generally, I remain very concerned over whether strict due process guarantees, including the right to an effective defence, were met in all cases,” he said, urging the Saudi Government to impose a moratorium on all executions and to work with the UN and other partners on alternative strategies to combat terrorism.

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