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As part of the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR) follow-up of detainees cases who are facing death sentences in the kingdom, the organization has documented and monitored the situation of 51 detainees who have death penalty judgements which are at various stages.
ESOHR obtained confirmed information about some victims as well as official court documents related to the death sentences which are issued by the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC), in addition to the official statements and news handled by official media. ESOHR believes that there are many cases that it wasn’t able to monitor, and also encountered difficulty in obtaining additional details about some monitored cases. The reason behind this is due to Saudi authorities approach in intimidating people and shrinking the space of civil society due to brutal repression, which has considerably limited ESOHR’s ability to monitor these cases.
ESOHR has documented that there are 31 individual who are facing the danger of execution at any moment after their sentences were ratified by the Supreme Court. In accordance with standard death sentence procedures, the last step before implementation is the king’s signature, thus it is virtually impossible to know the timing or the detail of when the king sign of execution orders. Eight of the cases are for individuals who were minors when detained or at the time of the alleged crime charged against them. These children are facing charges including participating in demonstrations and chanting slogans against the government; ESOHR has documented that these children did not receive of fair trials and were tortured into confession, they are: Ali Al-Nimr, Dawood AlMarhoon, Abdullah Alzaher, Abdulkareem Alhawaj, Mujtaba Alsuwaiket, Salman Al Quraish, Saed Al-Skafi and Abdullah Al Sareh.
Moreover, 13 of the 31 detainees are facing imminent execution at any moment based on charges related to spying for Iran. ESOHR’s follow-up of this ‘spy trial’ affirmed that these trials failed to meet fair trial conditions, and that the detainees were ill-treated and tortured. In a report titled: “Persistence on execution approach for words under torture: Saudi Arabia might execute 12 prisoners at any moment for spying for Iran”, ESOHR analyzed the nature of charges against the detainees, and concluded that the majority of the charges were not recognisable by international standards, whilst some of the charges had sectarian connotations which are unrelated to the classification of ‘the most serious crimes’ according to international law.
Among the fifty one cases, 5 citizens are still awaiting an appeal decision by the Supreme Court after an preliminary death sentence was issued against them. Furthermore, preliminary death sentences was issued against 12 citizens, 7 of whom the organization was unable to identify by name, yet their cases were known through the official newspapers, as they published reports about them in June and July 2018.
In spite of the appeals against execution judgments in 3 cases by the supreme court, the Public Prosecutor Office insisted on maintaining that the detainees remain under the danger of execution pending the result of the retrial.
The European Saudi Organization for Human Rights expresses its concerns over the life of the 51 detainees, as it monitored a pattern of violations by the Saudi judiciary which deprives the citizens from their right to a fair trial and accepts charges obtained under torture. Furthermore, the Saudi judiciary also it issues death sentences based on non-serious and non-violent charges.
Furthermore, the organization highlights its fears from the governments implementing the execution of minors, after evading its commitments under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, issuing official letters that reject the previous commitments, and lowering the age of a child to 15 years after it admitted that the child is the one who did not reach 18 years. Furthermore, ESOHR expresses it concern for the 51 detainees, and confirms that their trials have failed to meet the conditions of justice and lacks fundamental procedural safeguards. additionally, ESOHR monitoring highlights that many of the detainees have been tortured.
The European Saudi Organization for Human Rights believes that protecting the 51 detainees and giving them a re-trial them whilst observing the condition of a fair trial might be a first step towards complying the pledge made by the crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman in April 2018. During this pledge, he gave assurances that he is working on a plan to limit death sentences to the minimum, nevertheless the continued implementation and issuing capital punishment sentences have continued at escalating rates after his statement, raising doubts regarding the seriousness of his statement.