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Saudi Arabia: Execution of disabled man imminent as authorities ignore all local and international appeals (CRPD and UN experts)

Munir Adam

The European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR) fears the imminent execution of Munir Adam, a disabled 24-year-old Saudi Arabian man, as the Saudi Arabian authorities continue to hold him incommunicado in solitary confinement and callously violate both national and international law.

ESOHR’s fears are supported by the fact that Munir Adam has been held in solitary confinement since 12 June 2017, at a time when the authorities had already held him incommunicado and thereby prevented his family to visit or communicate with him.

Holding a prisoner in solitary confinement and executing him without allowing access to family members or informing them of the imminent execution has been the routine measure undertaken by the authorities before executing the prisoner. Fear for Adam’s imminent execution has also been compounded by the authorities’ sudden execution of four men on 11 May 2017 and whose cases resemble that of Adam.

ESOHR believes that Munir Adam’s continuous solitary and incommunicado confinement even before the Saudi Arabian Supreme Court upheld his death sentence on 23 July 2017, were steps taken by the authorities in anticipation of his final verdict and imminent execution, and to prevent his case from generating further local and international outcry.

United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and UN experts had written to the Saudi authorities on more than one occasion concerning fair trial and other human rights violations faced by Adam, the last of which was around two weeks before Adam was moved to solitary confinement.

Since his arrest on 8 April 2012, Munir Adam was subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. When he was first arrested, security forces in al-Qatif police station used the “al-falaka” method to torture him, resulting in making him unable to walk for many days. When around two weeks later he was moved to the General Directorate of Investigations’ (GDI) prison in al-Dammam he was tortured by electrocution and beaten with rubber sticks and kicking. This led to his partial deafness. At the GDI prison in Dammam, he was also denied food and water, and access to a bathroom. Security officers verbally abused him and insulted his religious beliefs. They repeatedly locked him up in solitary confinement for long durations.

It was not until the beginning of his trial, three years and five months into his arrest, that Adam was formally charged and his family were informed of the vague and exaggerated charges against him. ESOHR was able to review these charges and Adam’s forced confessions, which revealed that these were fabricated and were almost identical to the common language used in similar cases in the past bythe Ministry of Interior controlled prosecution.

According to his charge sheet, the prosecution charged him with a number of offences such as joining a terrorist group, planning and coordinating with others to organize demonstrations and participating in them, participating in armed demonstrations in anticipation [of security forces’ crackdown on the demonstration], firing at the armored vehicles of the Saudi Special Forces and on the police station, transporting armed men and not reporting them to the authorities, chanting anti-government slogans, inciting people to participate in demonstration, throwing rocks at the Awamiyah police station, and membership in a smartphone application group where he received messages and coordinated demonstrations.

On 1 June 2016, Munir Adam was sentenced to death by the Specialized Criminal Court, Saudi Arabia’s secretive counter-terrorism and security court. Putting aside fair trial and other human rights violations arising from his torture and ill-treatment, his death sentence is illegal because none of the offences that he has been convictedof are considered “most serious crimes” in international law. The Saudi authorities themselves had in their second Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review in October 2013 declared that “the death penalty [in Saudi Arabia] is only imposed for most serious crimes” (Outcome of the Review, Addendum 1, paragraph 14). According to international law and to the Human Rights Council, “most serious crimes” are crimes that lead to death by intentional killing. None of the offences Munir Adam was charged with included death by intentional killing or “most serious crimes”. As such, the Saudi Arabian authorities have violated international law and their commitment to international obligations.

Only at his second court session on 7 September 2015, was Munir Adam informed of the formal charges against him and allowed to hire a lawyer. He was not granted the minimum requirements to prepare for his defensewhich he was only able present on 2 December 2015. In his defense, Munir Adam stated “I was subjected to vicious beating and duress by the constant threats of the investigator”.

At his trial, Adam requested that the prosecution present the evidence for the offences they have charged him with. The only evidence the prosecution presented was the forced confessions that were extracted from Munir Adam under torture. These confessions were written by the investigator and not Munir Adam himself, which was justified by the prosecution on grounds the Adam cannot write. But Adam insisted that he was tortured to sign the confession without being allowed to read it and was threatened with more torture right in front of the judge who certified his confession. He also insisted that he can read and write, and asked for the tapes of the GDI interrogation room cameras which recorded the torture he was subjected to. He also requested the appearance and cross-examination in court of the GDI and al-Qatif prison investigators who tortured him. The court ignored his demands and those of his defense on numerous occasions and ill-treated both Munir Adam and his lawyers.

On 1 August 2016, a number of UN Special Rapporteurs – including the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions; the Special Rapporteur on the Right of Everyone to the Enjoyment of the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health; Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers; and  Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment – formally wrote to the Saudi authorities requesting information and raising concerns on the cases of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, Raif Badawi, Ali al-Nimr, Alyazan al-Jazaeeri, Mujtaba al-Suweyket, and Munir Adam. The Saudi authorities replied on 17 June 2017 denying the allegations that Munir Adam was subjected to torture as a result of which he sustained numerous injuries and partial deafness. It also denied that Adam was denied medical attention.

On 13 September 2016, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, also wrote to the Saudi authorities concerning Adam’s case. This formal letter was in accordance with Saudi Arabia’s ratification of the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 24 June 2008. The Optional Protocol allows the Committee to investigate cases of human rights violations targeting persons with disabilities and to request visitation to meet with disabled victims such as Munir Adam.

On 7 December 2017, the Saudi authorities replied to the letter of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities denying their request and avoiding direct answers to their questions. The authorities argued that Adam can resort to local means of redress, but chose not to do so. This is despite the fact that Adam had complained to the trial judge and requested admission of evidence of his torture, but his requests were ignored. The authorities also claimed that allegations on behalf of Munir Adam are not supported by any evidence, whereas in reality the prisoner was granted very limited access to his defense team and none to the Committee or the outside world, The authorities also claimed that the organizations which initially raised the complaint to the Committee and on which basis the Committee acted are not delegated to represent Munir Adam. In fact, when submitting their formal complaint to the Committee, these organizations had also provided copies of their certificates of rightful delegation to represent Adam.

In late May 2017, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was informed that Munir Adam’s death sentence had been upheld. It immediately sent a formal complaint to the Saudi authorities, which replied on 19 June 2017 dismissing the complaint on grounds that it does not meet the requirements. The authorities insisted that Munir Adam has local avenues of redress and provided the list of these avenues. ESOHR confirms that all of these means of redress have been exhausted by Munir Adam’s family, including complaints submitted to the Saudi Human Rights Commission’s al-Dammam branch on 24 July 2017. The Saudi Human Rights Commission informed Adam’s parents that they cannot work on his case because his death sentence had already been upheld. Munir Adam’s family have also written to the courts, including the appeal court that upheld Adam’s sentence, but have received no reply. Such behavior of ignoring legal and rightful means of communication are all too common to the different formal institutions of the Saudi state all of which do not enjoy autonomy from the executive branch and in particular, the Ministry of Interior and the Royal Court.

The European Saudi Organization for Human Rights affirms that the numerous human rights and fair trial violation faced by Munir Adam is also commonly faced by all other prisoners. This includes prisoners facing the death sentence, a penalty for which international law demands strict adherence to safeguards and standards.

In Munir Adam’s case, the Saudi authorities have shown no consideration to paragraph 1 of Article 4 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilitiesthat states. Saudi Arabia is required to “take interim measures as may be necessary to avoid possible irreparable damage to the victim or victims of the alleged violation.”

Munir Adam can be executed at any moment. If the Saudi Arabian authorities carry out his execution then they would be violating both national and international law, and showing utter disrespect to the international conventions and United Nations mechanisms at a time when they are current members of the Human Rights Council for the fourth time.

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