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Saudi Arabia covers up torture cases, issues death sentences on evidence obtained through torture

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After a detailed examination, death sentences were confirmed for 14 young menin May 2017.In response, the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights today called on Saudi Arabia to overturn their death sentences with immediate effect, transparently investigate allegations they made in court that they had been tortured, and grant them open, fair re-trials.

ESOHR’s investigation showed that the detainees’ trials were marred by such major flaws as to make them farcical. As well as denying them access to lawyers throughout their interrogation, Saudi authorities placed them in solitary confinement for long periods – for over a year in at least two cases. The detainees say they also faced coercion and torture in order to extract confessions. In most cases, their “declarations” were written by the interrogating officers.

Saudi authorities claimed that these 14 young men were part of a terrorist cell with 24 members. The Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh found them guilty of several crimes including organizing demonstrations, burning tires and burgling shops. Five were also accused of opening fire on a security patrol, killing a soldier. Out of 14 defendants, four were minors at the time at the time they were detained or when they were charged.

An examination of the court’s ruling confirms that during sentencing hearings, the judge did not specify which charges justified the 14 death sentences. He made do with laying out all the charges, which he said had been proven through legally certified statements, then followed this with the same phrase in each of the rulings: “It has been proven to us that the charges against the defendant are crimes against the peace, and sought to sow corruption in the land… the charges have been proven, and it has been proven that they were coupled with harmful acts that fit the description of criminal acts of terrorism…”

ESOHR also noted a major inconsistency in the death sentence against Mujtaba al-Sweikat, a minor. The judge did not find him guilty of firing at a security patrol when he laid out the charges for which Sweiket had been found guilty, based on what he called “legally certified statements.” However, the judge later justified Sweikat’s death sentence with vague and serious accusations such as “armed rebellion against the ruler,”and attacking and opening fire at security personnel.

As well as Sweikat, death sentences were passed against a further four minors, meaning Saudi authorities blatantly violated Article 37 (a) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which it signed in 1996: “No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age.” The sentences also violate Article 7 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights: “The death penalty shall not be inflicted on a person under 18 years of age, unless the legislation in force at the time the crime was committed provides otherwise.”

Saudi Arabia is also a signatory to the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. All those sentenced to death stated before the judge that they had faced torture and other cruel treatment. ESOHR found in the court ruling, which forms a record of trial proceedings, that the Saudi judiciary took little notice of defendants’ allegations that they had been tortured. This is in violation of Article 12 of the treaty: “Each State Party shall ensure that its competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction.” The allegations of torture can be seen as credible, given the commonplace practice of torture at detention facilities and prisons in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi authorities also failed to respond to requests by the defendants that their interrogators be summoned, or that footage from the cameras in their interrogation rooms be shown in court to prove their allegations that investigators extracted their confessions through coercion and torture.

 

Death Sentence Number 1: Hussein Al Rabiah

Born on 17 July 1992, Al Rabiah was arrested by ambush on 2 September 2012. He was placed in solitary confinement for a long period lasting about one year and two months, during which time he was not permitted to meet with his family. He was also denied access to a lawyer for three years, and he was only allowed a lawyer at the second hearing held on 6 September 2015, when he received the indictment.

When sent to the ratification judge, Al Rabiah twice in a row refused to sign the statements written by the investigator. Both times he was returned to the investigator who had tortured him in order to force him to sign the statements written by the investigator himself.

In his reply, Al Rabia confirmed to the judge that the investigator said this to him:

“O shameless liar, you who follow the mullahs of Magian Iran, you are a criminal in my eyes whether you have done anything or not. You will certify everything I say and write against you, and I will make you do this by force….The day will come when we will kill all you Shiites.”

Al Rabiahalso noted to the judge that he had been subjected to various types of torture: he was beaten with sticks,slapped repeatedly in the face, and tied to a chair and beaten with a large electrical wire. He said that the investigator visited him in the private prison hospital and hit him in the face with a shoe.

The judge sentenced him to a discretionary [ta’zir] death penalty based on statements that Al Rabiah said were extracted from him and others under the stress of torture. Among the charges he was found guilty of, and for which the judge sentenced him to death, were participation in demonstrations; opening fire on a security patrol, killing one soldier, Hussein Bouah Zabani, and wounding another; and burglarizing commercial shops.

Saudi Arabia carried out the discretionary death penalty against Al Rabiah on 23 April 2019, when 37 people were beheaded at the same time.

 

Death Sentence Number 2: Abdullah Al Turaif

Born on 16 November 1990, Al Turaif was arrested on 28 June 2012. He was placed in solitary confinement for nearly three months, during which time he was not permitted to meet with his family. He was also denied access to a lawyer for more than three years, and he was only allowed a lawyer at the second hearing held on 6 September 2015, when he received the indictment.

In his response to the charges, Al Turaif said: “Everything I certified in the investigation file was because of the psychological pressure and torture I encountered during the investigation. In order to get rid of it all, I told the investigator to write whatever he wanted, and I would certify it. Standing for long periods, insults, and beatings all ensure that a person will admit to things he did not do.” In a video clip, his mother also said: “My son is suffering the worst kinds of torture in detention, resulting in physical injuries to his vertebrae, deviation of the left eye, and urinary incontinence, as well as psychological damage.”

Among the charges Abdullah Al Turaif was convicted of, and for which the judge sentenced him to death, were participation with several people in organizing protests, distributing drinks to participants, and opening fire on an armored jeep belonging to emergency forces.

Saudi Arabia carried out the discretionary death penalty against Al Turaif as part of the massacre of 23 April 2019, in which 37 people were beheaded at the same time.

 

Death Sentence Number 3: Hussein Al Musallam

Born on 5 June 1985, Al Musallam was arrested on 15 September 2012. He was placed in solitary confinement for almost 13 months, during which time he was not permitted to meet with his family. He was also denied access to a lawyer for nearly three years, and he was only allowed a lawyer at the second hearing held on 6 September 2015, when he received the indictment.

During his time in solitary confinement, the investigation, and the denial of access to a lawyer, Al Musallam suffered extreme torture to extract confessions from him, including beating, kicking, and electric shock.  Three times in a row and on separate occasions, he refused before the judge to certify the statements written by the investigator himself. Al Musallam was subjected to a harsh regimen of torture each time he was returned from the court without certifying the statements, which eventually caused him to acquiesce in order to end the bitter torture.

Among the charges Hussein Al Musallam was convicted of, and for which the judge sentenced him to death, were opening fire on a security patrol – killing one soldier, Hussein BouahZabani, and wounding another – and burglarizing commercial shops.

Saudi Arabia carried out the discretionary death penalty against Al Musallam as part of the massacre of 23 April 2019, in which 37 people were beheaded at the same time.

 

Death Sentence Number 4: Mohammad Al Nasser

Born on 26 July 1992, Al Nasser was arrested on 27 August 2012. He was placed in solitary confinement for about six months, during which time he was not permitted to meet with his family. He was also denied access to a lawyer for three years, and he was only allowed a lawyer at the second hearing held on 6 September 2015, when he received the indictment.

During his time in solitary confinement, the investigation, and the denial of access to a lawyer, Al Nasser was subjected to various types of cruel treatment and torture, including sleep deprivation, beatings to the face with a shoe, and whipping with electrical wires. Al Nasser also noted to the judge in court that the investigators threatened to harm his father by fabricating a case against him if Al Nasser did not confess to the facts cited to him.

Among the charges Mohammad Al Nasser was convicted of, and for which the judge sentenced him to death, were participation in firing on a police station in Qatif Governorate and armed burglary of several commercial shops.

Saudi Arabia carried out the discretionary death penalty against Al Nasser as part of the massacre of 23 April 2019, in which 37 people were beheaded at the same time.

 

Death Sentence Number 5: Mustafa Darwish

Born on 26 October 1993, Darwish was arrested on 17 October 2012. He was placed in solitary confinement for several long months, during which time he was not permitted to meet with his family. He was also denied access to a lawyer for almost three years, and he was only allowed a lawyer at the second hearing held on 6 September 2015, when he received the indictment.

During his time in solitary confinement, the investigation, and the denial of access to a lawyer, Mustafa Darwish was subjected to cruel treatment and psychological and physical torture, with the goal of obtaining confessions, including psychological intimidation, violent beatings, sleep deprivation, late night interrogations, insults, and verbal abuse. He told the judge in court that he refused to certify to the ratification judge statements extracted under the stress of torture. Darwish also informed the judge that he was forced to stamp the statements, but the judge gave him the choice of certifying the statements or returning to investigation, which caused him to certify them for fear of being returned to the torture chambers.

Among the charges Darwish was convicted of, and for which the judge sentenced him to death, were participation in firing on a security patrol – killing one soldier, Hussein Bouah Zabani, and wounding another – and possession of a machine gun.

Saudi Arabia carried out the discretionary death penalty against Darwish as part of the massacre of 23 April 2019, in which 37 people were beheaded at the same time.

 

Death Sentence Number 6: Fadil Lubad

Born on 30 September 1989, Lubad was arrested on 25 August 2012. He was placed in solitary confinement for almost four months, during which time he was not permitted to meet with his family. He was also denied access to a lawyer for almost three years, and he was only allowed a lawyer at the second hearing held on 6 September 2015, when he received the indictment.

During his time in solitary confinement, the investigation, and the denial of access to a lawyer, Lubad was subjected to psychological torture and various forms of cruel treatment, with the goal of obtaining confessions, such as hitting his head against the wall until he fell unconscious, harsh beating witha plastic tube on different parts of the body, kicking his front part with iron shoes in sensitive and dangerous spots, placement  in a dark and cold room for several consecutive days, beating and spitting on him while blindfolded, uttering sectarian abuse to him, and threatening his family. These practices caused chronic back pain and several broken teeth.

Among the charges Lubad was convicted of, and for which the judge sentenced him to death, were participation in demonstrations in Qatif, meeting with and hiding organizers, and participation in firing on security patrols.

Saudi Arabia carried out the discretionary death penalty against Lubad as part of the massacre of 23 April 2019, in which 37 people were beheaded at the same time.

 

Death Sentence Number 7: Said al-Sakafi (minor)

Born on 13November 1993, al-Sakafi was arrested on 1December 2012. He was placed in solitary confinement for almost three months, during which time he was not permitted to meet with his family. He was also denied access to a lawyer for about two years and nine months, and he was only allowed a lawyer at the second hearing held on 6 September 2015, when he received the indictment.

During his time in solitary confinement, the investigation, and the denial of access to a lawyer, al-Sakafi was subjected to cruel treatment and psychological and physical torture, with the goal of obtaining confessions, such as harsh beatings with fists, sticks, and electrical wires, kicking, and punching. In one of the interrogation sessions to force him to certify statements, Al-Sakafi’s interrogator said: “If you do not certify the statements before the sheikh, you will be sent back to us again, and we will show you redoubled pain and beating such as you have not seen before.” He also told al-Sakafi, “I will make you confess by force, and you will say you did everything I have written in this statement.” In his reply, al-Sakafi asked the judge to confront the investigator and the Mabahith (secret police) men, but the judge did not so do.

Among the charges Said al-Sakafi was convicted of, and for which the judge sentenced him to death, were participation in protests in Qatif Governorate, writing anti-state sentiments, taking photos of detainees, throwing Molotov cocktails, and firing on the Awamiyah police station.

Saudi Arabia carried out the discretionary death penalty against al-Sakafi as part of the massacre of 23 April 2019, in which 37 people were beheaded at the same time.

 

Death Sentence Number 8: Salman Al Quraysh (minor)

Born on 19 January 1994, Al Quraysh was arrested on 6 January 2013. He was placed in solitary confinement for three months, during which time he was not permitted to meet with his family. He was also denied access to a lawyer for about two years and nine months, and he was only allowed a lawyer at the second hearing held on 6 September 2015, when he received the indictment.

During his time in solitary confinement, the investigation, and the denial of access to a lawyer, Al Quraysh was subjected to cruel treatment, torture, and harsh beatings, with the goal of obtaining confessions. He was admitted to the Mabahith prison hospital four times, suffering severe beatings and torture. He once spent a full month in the hospital for treatment of the effects of torture. Among the types of torture used against him were:

  1. Beatings with thick plastic, metal, or rubber hoses.
  2. Use of high-voltage electricity that cannot be accurately determined; according to the description available, sparks are emitted from the electrical rod at a powerful electrical current, and the electrical rod is placed on different parts of Salman’s body, resulting in extreme pain and burning on his body due to the electric shock.
  3. He was brought into a torture chamber, which the Mabahith soldier called “the black room.” The room’s walls were painted black, and the four or so men – torture specialists – wore black clothing and security and safety shoes called “Safety.”
  4. He was forcibly given hallucinogenic pills that put him into an abnormal state.

AlQuraysh asked the judge to summon the interrogator and write to the investigative authorities at the General Mabahith Prison in Dammam to submit the investigation records and to force a confrontation between the two, but the judge did not respond to him.

Among the charges Salman Al Quraysh was convicted of, and for which the judge sentenced him to death, were participation in protests in Qatif Governorate, burning tires and containers, and participation in firing on a security patrol in a street in Qatif, which killed one soldier, Hussein BouahZabani, and wounded another.

Saudi Arabia carried out the discretionary death penalty against Al Quraysh as part of the massacre of 23 April 2019, in which 37 people were beheaded at the same time.

 

Death Sentence Number 9: Mujtaba al-Sweiket (minor)

Born on 6 June 1994, al-Sweiket was arrested on 11 December 2012, at the airport on his way to travel to the United States of America for university. He was placed in solitary confinement for about three months, during which time he was not permitted to meet with his family. He was also denied access to a lawyer for about two years and nine months, and he was only allowed a lawyer at the second hearing held on 6 September 2015, when he received the indictment.

During his time in solitary confinement, the investigation, and the denial of access to a lawyer, al-Sweiket was subjected to torture and various types of cruel treatment, with the purpose of forcing confessions. This treatment included suspending him by his hands, hitting him with wires and hoses, extinguishing cigarettes on various parts of his body, hitting and slapping him on the head and face with shoes, and leaving him in solitary confinement in the cold of winter, stripped of most of his clothes and with blood flowing from parts of his body.

Among the charges Mujtaba al-Sweiket was convicted of, and for which the judge sentenced him to death, were participation in protests in Qatif Governorate, photographing demonstrators and circulating the photos, throwing Molotov cocktails at security forces, and burning tires.

Saudi Arabia carried out the discretionary death penalty against al-Sweiket as part of the massacre of 23 April 2019, in which 37 people were beheaded at the same time.

 

Death Sentence Number 10: Mounir Al Adam

Born on 23 August 1992, Al Adam was arrested on 11 April 2012. He was placed in solitary confinement for five-and-a-half months, during which time he was not permitted to meet with his family. He was also denied access to a lawyer for more than three years, and he was only allowed a lawyer at the second hearing held on 6 September 2015, when he received the indictment.

During his time in solitary confinement, the investigation, and the denial of access to a lawyer, Al Quraysh was subjected to torture and various forms of cruel treatment, including electric shock, beatings with wires and sticks, stomping, and kicking. His head was also hit against the wall. The torture he suffered caused a complete loss of hearing in one ear and the removal of some of his fingernails. In his defense, Al Adam said: “I suffered severe beatings and psychological pressure because of the investigator’s continual threats against me.” Al Adam asked for the investigator to be summoned and the investigative authorities written to bring the investigative records as evidence of his coercion, but his request was not responded to.

Saudi Arabia carried out the discretionary death penalty against Al Adam as part of the massacre of 23 April 2019, in which 37 people were beheaded at the same time.

 

Death Sentence Number 11: Abdullah Al Asrih (minor)

Born on 10 April 1994, Al Asrih was arrested on 11 May 2013. He was placed in solitary confinement for an unknown period of time, during which he was not permitted to meet with his family. He was also denied access to a lawyer for about two-and-a-half years, and he was only allowed a lawyer at the second hearing held on 6 September 2015, when he received the indictment.

During his time in solitary confinement, the investigation, and the denial of access to a lawyer, Al Asrih was subjected to cruel treatment, torture, severe beatings, and intimidation. He was threatened with torture to the point of death. His mother was insulted with obscene words, and he was psychologically tortured with the threat that she would be brought and thrown into prison, all with the goal of intimidating him and forcing him to certify the statements.

Among the charges Abdullah Al Asrih was convicted of, and for which the judge sentenced him to death, were participation in protests in Qatif Governorate, participation with several other persons in making Molotov cocktails, and firing on a security patrol, killing one soldier, Hussein Bouah Zabani, and wounding another.

Saudi Arabia carried out the discretionary death penalty against Al Asrih as part of the massacre of 23 April 2019, in which 37 people were beheaded at the same time.

 

Death Sentence Number 12: Ahmed Al Darwish

Born on 16 April 1991, Al Darwish was arrested on 15 August 2013. He was denied access to a lawyer for more than two years, and he was only allowed a lawyer at the second hearing held on 6 September 2015, when he received the indictment.

During his time in solitary confinement, the investigation, and the denial of access to a lawyer, Al Darwish was subjected to cruel treatment, torture, and severe beatings to force him to sign the statements written by the investigator.

Among the charges Ahmed Al Darwish was convicted of, and for which the judge sentenced him to death, were armed robbery with two other persons of a money transport vehicle belonging to a financial company, armed robbery of several commercial shops, and opening fire on two security patrols in a street in the city of Saihat.

Saudi Arabia carried out the discretionary death penalty against Al Darwish as part of the massacre of 23 April 2019, in which 37 people were beheaded at the same time.

 

Death Sentence Number 13: Abdulaziz Al Sahwi (minor)

Born on 20 April 1994, Al Darwish was arrested on 29 April 2013. He was placed in solitary confinement for almost two months, during which time he wasnot permitted to meet with his family. He was denied access to a lawyer for about two-and-a-half years, and he was only allowed a lawyer at the second hearing held on 6 September 2015, when he received the indictment.

During his time in solitary confinement, the investigation, and the denial of access to a lawyer, Al Sahwi was subjected to cruel treatment, torture, and severe beatings to force him to sign the statements written by the investigator. He told the judge that his statements were incorrect and that he had been forced to sign them under torture, saying: “The confessions were obtained while I was in the hospital for treatment, and I was beaten in the hospital bed.”

Among the charges Abdulaziz Al Sahwi was convicted of, and for which the judge sentenced him to death, were participation in protests, praising Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, burning tires, and firing a revolver belonging to his companion when he saw a security patrol in Awamiyah.

Saudi Arabia carried out the discretionary death penalty against Al Sahwi as part of the massacre of 23 April 2019, in which 37 people were beheaded at the same time.

 

Death Sentence Number 14: Ahmed Al Rabiah

Born on 20 July 1984, Al Rabiah was arrested on 30 December 2013. He was placed in solitary confinement for almost four months, during which time he wasnot permitted to meet with his family. He was denied access to a lawyer for more than a year and a half, and he was only allowed a lawyer at the second hearing held on 6 September 2015, when he received the indictment.

During his time in solitary confinement, the investigation, and the denial of access to a lawyer, Al Rabiah was subjected to cruel treatment, torture, kicking, insult and humiliation, sleep deprivation, forced wakefulness, and beating on different parts of his body, especially the abdomen, kidneys, and testicles until he urinated blood. Al Rabiah asked the judge to summon the investigator and to write to the investigative authorities in the General Mabahith Prison in Dammam to submit the investigation records.

Among the charges Ahmed Al Rabiahwas convicted of, and for which the judge sentenced him to death, were participation in protests, communication with and concealment of two wanted men, and attacking a police station in Awamiyah.

Saudi Arabia carried out the discretionary death penalty against Al Rabiah as part of the massacre of 23 April 2019, in which 37 people were beheaded at the same time.

 

ESOHR’s investigation showed that five of the defendants were accused of opening fire on a security force patrol in the streets of Qatif, killing soldier Hussein Bawah Zabbani and wounding another soldier. In a statement on the incident August 3, 2012 incident, the interior ministry’s security spokesman Major General Mansur al-Turki said the security patrol “came under intense fire by four gunmen riding motorbikes while [the patrol] was stopped at a crossroads on Road 1 in al-Qatif province, leading to the death of the first soldier, Hussein Bawah Zabbani.” He added that “as security forces monitored the situation, they spotted and followed several gunmen riding motorbikes. Fire was exchanged with them and four of them were arrested, while one was wounded and died on the way to hospital. The security services were also informed by the Central Al-Qatif Hospital of the arrival of a person with a bullet wound, who was clearly one of the gunmen implicated in shooting at security personnel. The incident is still under examination by security services.”

ESOHR examined the dates of unlawful killings in Al-Qatif and found that security forces killed Hussein Youssef al-Qallaq on August 2, 2012, as he was riding a motorbike. We cannot confirm that he was the person mentioned in the Saudi government’s statement, as the statement does not mention the name of the person concerned.

ESOHR also noted that all five of those accused of involvement in the shooting of the patrol and the soldier’s killing were arrested at later dates, meaning that not a single one of them was among those arrested on August 3 – i.e. those initially accused by the Interior Ministry of being behind the shooting.

Furthermore, those accused over the killing of the soldier would now number at least nine: the four with whom the security forces exchanged fire, killing one, after they opened fire on a security patrol (as per the ministry’s statement), plus the five who were issued death sentences. This is despite the fact the official spokesman said in his statement that only four people targeted the patrol: those arrested, plus the one who was killed on the day of the incident.

The ESOHR calls on the Saudi government to abide by international treaties and to implement Article 18 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: “Each State Party shall ensure that its competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction.” The ESOHR also urges Saudi authorities not to accept as evidence statements extracted under torture. The organization calls for the retrial of the above defendants in a trial that adheres to standards of justice, allow for the accused to have contact with a lawyer who should be present during interrogations, and confirms that the accused should not be criminalized over expression of their opinions, as this is a clear violation of international law.

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