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Despite human rights reports and legal analyses which confirm that the Saudi justice system lacks adequate safeguards and provisions to ensure fair trials, the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC), which uses the Law for Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing, continues to increase the number of individuals facing the death sentence.
On the 1st of June 2016, according to official media, the SCC in Riyadh, issued an initial sentence against 24 prisoners, in which 14 of them received a death sentence. From those remaining, 10 individuals received sentences of 3 to 15 years imprisonment, while one person was found innocent. The Prosecutor had originally demanded the execution of 18 out of 24, allegedly for forming a terrorist cell.
The SCC initial death sentence ruling has been described by the lawyer and human rights defender Taha Alhaji “The specialized criminal court rulings cannot be trusted because they don’t follow the principles and procedures of just trials”. In addition regarding the charges made by the Prosecutor he commented “The Saudi Public Prosecutor which claims that it forms part of judicial authority, as per international legal standards, is actually overseen by the ministry of interior, an executive authority, and that undermines the ability to ensure just trials since their inception”.
According to trial monitoring performed by the organization (ESOHR), most detainees have been deprived of basic rights at all stages of arrest, investigation and prosecution. Such violations include incommunicado detention where the prisoner is deprived of communication with the outside world, as well as denial of a lawyer from the first moments of arrest, the denial of a public trial and denial of equality of arms with the prosecution, before the judge.
In addition, a number of those sentenced to death, have been subjected to torture, which constitute a violation to the UN convention against torture, a pattern indicating that some confessions are likely to have been extracted under torture. Such concerns raised by a number of organizations to the United Nations Committee against torture reports about systematic torture practices by the Saudi authorities. This includes cases brought up by the Organization in which the public prosecutor has called for execution.
The European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights, calls on the Saudi authorities to drop the initial death sentences issued against these 14 citizens, followed by their immediate release and a retrial which ensures and is in accordance with basic fair trial principles.
The organization confirms that there are serious concerns surrounding the lives of the detainees, as the the Saudi authorities has began to undertake executions on an almost on daily basis. Executions performed since beginning of the year 2016 have reached 94 according to the figures of the organization, 47 of them were in the 2nd of January 2016 mass execution which included Sheikh Nimr who called for social justice as well as under-age protesters.
In addition to the 14 who received their death sentences, there are 5 others awaiting execution at any moment after their final sentences were approved, as well as 6 others who have already received their initial death sentence. 25 other persons against whom the public prosecutor has also called for death sentence, are also waiting their trials to end.