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Saudi Arabia executes Yemeni youth despite testimonies of his innocence

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On January 27, 2019, the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia executed Yemeni detainee Yaseen Mohammed Ali (born 7December 1990) as part of a mass execution including other Yemenis. This followeda series of arbitrary and extra-judicial measures as well as testimony confirming his innocence.

He was arrested in 2010 and charged – along with three others, Ali Salim Ibrahim Yahya, Abdul Basset Abdul Samad Gharsan, and Yahya Ayesh Masoud Bakhit – with the murder of Rahim Taj Gholam, a Pakistani national working as a guard at a company headquarters, and the theft of his possessions as well as metal wires belonging to the company.

Yaseen’s case involved several violations from the moment of his arrest. According to information, he was arbitrarily detained at his home in the governorate of Mecca without an arrest warrant or notification of his family. The family learned of the arrest later, through his companions who had witnessed the arrest, and Yaseen contacted them by telephone only after almost a month of detention.

Most of Yaseen’s family live in Yemen, and he went nearly three years without seeing them. After this period, his brother living in Saudi Arabia was able to visit him, although only from behind a glass partition. This arrangement did not aid him in discussing the violations he hadsuffered over the three years. In addition, the presence of prison observers and other families at the time of the visit raised his concerns about speaking of what he hadencountered. During ten years of detention, Yaseen’s family only visited him twice, and he spoke with them by telephone irregularly.

The family was not able to appoint a lawyer for him forfinancialreasons, nor did they know the nature of the charges against him. Likewise, they could not confirm that the government had appointed a lawyer for him. The family tried to contact the prison administration and official institutions, with no response. In addition, the Yemeni embassy did not intervene to monitor Yaseen’s case and the fairness of his trial.

On 27 January 2019, the Saudi government executed the four detainees in a courtyard of the Mecca Correctional Prison. According to eyewitnesses, prior to the execution, the three defendants in the same case – Ali Salim Ibrahim Yahya, Abdul Basset Abdul Samad Gharsan, and Yahya Ayesh Masoud Bakhit – confirmed that the fourth defendant, Yaseen Mohammed Ali, was innocent and had not participated in the killing.

The confirmations of the three defendants and the urgency of their testimony, despite their moments of horror in the execution yard, with the sword about to cut off their heads, prompted the official entities readying the process to request a delay in carrying out the sentence. According to information, the execution was halted for about an hour in order to contact the responsible parties. The latter refused to take the testimony seriously and ignored it completely, at which time Yaseen and the others were executed.

The family was not notified of the date of the execution and, afterwards, received a communication from an acquaintance of Yaseen, who informed them that the execution had been carried out. Yaseen’s brother went to the prison, where they confirmed the news and handed him Yaseen’s will and personal effects, not including his identity papers; he was also able to visit his grave.

The execution of Yemeni citizens adds to the sentences carried out against foreigners in Saudi Arabia. Through the end of April 2019, foreigners accounted for 46% of the total executions in 2019, 25% of whom were Yemeni. Over the 13 years from August 2004 to the end of 2017, the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR) has counted1, 286 people executed in Saudi Arabia, which includes 504 foreigners.

According to ESOHR documents, the Saudi government is violating numerous international laws by arresting, trying, and executing foreigners. Monitoring of certain cases has shown torture practices in places of detention, with detainees denied basic rights to communicate with the outside world and obtain a lawyer. These practices, which eliminate the conditions for just trials, place death sentences in the framework of killing by summary and arbitrary processes. This was the approach applied to the Yemeni youth, Yaseen.

The ESOHR believes that the case of Yaseen is a new and flagrant violation of international laws and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that affirms the fundamental right to life. International law emphasizes the importance of ensuring that countries that still practice the death penalty limit it to the most severe crimes, such as premeditated murder, and ensure the most stringent conditions for fair trials, yet the killing of Yaseen ignored the testimony of witnesses. Although the family cannot confirm the details of Yaseen’s torture, the coursetaken by Saudi Arabia raises serious concerns regarding the extraction of confessions under torture.

The ESOHR notes that this execution is a clear indicator of the nature of the Saudi government’s practice of executing foreigners. Likewise, it is a confirmation of the lack of seriousness towards any human rights reforms, particularly the death penalty, promised by Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.

The ESOHR stresses the importance of finding a mechanism to evaluate Saudi Arabia’s adherence to its pledges, hold it accountable, and push it to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, especially since approximately one-third of the Saudi population is foreigners, according to official statistics.

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