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Six minors beheaded in Saudi execution spree

The picture on the right: Abdulkarim AlHawaj, Salman Amin Alkoraysh, Mojtaba AlSowaiket, Abdullah Salman AlSoraih, Mohammad Saeed Al-Skafi, Abdulaziz Hassan Al-Sahwi

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In what can only be described as a state killing spree, on the 23rd of April 2019, Saudi Arabia violently and secretly executed 37 individuals en masse, at least six of whom were minors: Mohammad Saeed Al-Skafi, Salman Amin Alkoraysh, Mojtaba AlSowaiket, Abdullah Salman AlSoraih, Abdulaziz Hassan Al-Sahwi and Abdulkarim AlHawaj.

The families of these minors were traumatized by the news as they were not informed and had no knowledge of the impending executions, thus depriving them of a chance to say last goodbyes. The family members only came to know of the executions once it had been officially announced via official state media outlets.

The absolute prohibition of the imposition of a death sentence against minor is enshrined in international law. The term minor relates to those under the age of 18 at the time of alleged offense. Of these six executed minors, some were arrested at an age of less than 18 years old, and some were arrested over the age of eighteen, but regardless, all faced charges related to alleged ‘crimes’ conducted when they less than 18 years of age, which makes them a protected category in relation of capital punishment.

On the basis of this absolute prohibition, no minor should face a capital trial. However, in the case of these minors they faced grossly unfair capital trials at the notorious Specialized Criminal Court, a court notorious for the use of torture based confessions and grossly unfair trial.

Being a minor in Saudi Arabia does not protect you from torture. Of those executed, all were subjected to the following forms of torture and ill treatment:

– Mujtaba AlSowaiket: Solitary confinement, hung from hands, beaten with wires and hoses, cigarette burns on different parts of his body, beating him and slapping him with shoes on head and face, and leaving him in a cold solitary cell in the winter, nudity.

– Abdulkarim AlHawaj: Solitary confinement for five months, beaten with sticks and electric wires, kicked with heavy shoes, electrocuted, hands tied above him for over 12 hours, verbal insults and threats.

-Salman AlKoraysh – Solitary confinement for three months, beating with thick plastic, metal, or rubber hoses; high voltage electric shocks; forcing feeding him hallucinogenic pills.

This is not the first time that Saudi Arabia has executed minors. In 2016 during a mass execution of 47 individuals, four minors were among those executed including peaceful protestor Ali Al Rebh, who was also convicted on torture based confessions.

The execution of minors, who are afforded a special protection under international law, shows Saudi Arabia has blatant disregard for its international obligations. As a member of UN human rights council and a state party to the convention on the Rights of the Child, Saudi Arabia has very clear responsibilities towards minors, but instead uses these affiliations for the purpose of public relations, and continues to use capital punishment as a tool of terror against minors and others alike.

In its concluding report on Saudi Arabia, the Committee on the Rights of the child urged Saudi Arabia to immediately stop the executions of the individuals who were less than eighteen years when committed the alleged crime, including Salman Al Koraysh, Mujatba Al Suwaiket and Abdulkareem Al-Hawaj, who were amidst the most recent mass execution spree. By executing these individuals, Saudi Arabia has ignored explicit recommendations against the imposition of capital punishment against these minors.

It is noteworthy that all the of these minors were from Eastern province, which is predominately Shia, and this discriminatory pattern in arrests and death sentences has been noted in the 2018 report by former special rapporteur Ben Emmerson.

ESOHR highlights that Muhammad Bin Salmans recent promise to reduce the death penalty is a total fabrication which was said only as a public relations stunt. In light of Saudi Arabia’s flagrant disregard for its obligation towards the protection of children, ESOHR calls for an urgent review of Saudi Arabia’s membership at the UN human rights council and committees.

According to ESOHR, dozens of individuals, including minors, remain at imminent risk of execution. ESOHR is deeply concerned about these individuals and calls upon the International Community to take immediate actions to firstly, strongly condemn this mass execution and secondly, protect those at risk from imminent execution by applying pressure Saudi Arabia to stay this execution on the basis of unfair trials.

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