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Saudi Arabia Continues Sharpening the Executioner’s Blade: 58 Prisoners at Risk

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The European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR) is monitoring 58 cases in which prisoners have received death sentences at various levels of the judicial process in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This monitoring is ongoing despite the government’s strict silence with regards to execution, victims’ issues, their court proceedings, intimidation of their families, and concealment of sensitive information about them.

ESOHR has documented and detailed in its report several of these issues, including violations and excesses that demonstrate the injustice of these sentences. It also affirmed that Saudi Arabia continues to adhere to a specific approach towards these cases.

This  includes violations from the very beginning of the arrest, such as enforced disappearance and forbidding contact with a lawyer or the outside world. The report also confirmed that several of the prisoners were subjected to torture during the investigation phase to extract confessions that the judiciary uses when issuing their rulings. In addition to that, the report uncovered that the charges brought against most of the prisoners were not among the most serious offenses under international law. Rather, most of the charges are political, or relate to expressing one’s opinion and participating in demonstrations. However, Saudi Arabia consistently claims that it does not invoke the death penalty except for the most dangerous criminals.

According to ESOHR’s monitoring, some of these cases included mass death sentences, such as the case involving 12 people at risk of execution who were charged with being affiliated with what the government considers an Iranian spy cell. Likewise, there is the case of 14 young men sentenced to death for participating in demonstrations in 2011 with the charge of terrorism after mass hearings. These sentences were validated by the Supreme Court and may be executed at any moment; some of them have already been transferred to the Presidency of State Security for execution. Eight individuals in the case were sentenced even though they were minors: Ali Al-Nimr, Abdullah al-Zaher, Abdel-Karim El-Hawaj, Dawoud al-Marhoon, Said al-Skafi, Salman al-Quraish, Mujtaba al-Sweikat, and Abdullah Al-Sarih.

Additionally, the Public Prosecutor called for the execution of five human rights activists (Israa al-Ghomgham, Ahmed Al-Matrood, Ali al-Uwaysheer, Moussa al-Hashem, and Khaled al-Ghanem) in a mass trial, charging them with participating in demonstrations and spreading resources harmful to public order. Likewise, the Public Prosecutor demanded the execution of Sheikh Salman al-Ouda, Sheikh Aoud al-Qarni, and Dr. Ali al-Omari, who were charged for their opinions. It also demanded the execution of the distinguished Islamic scholar Hassan Farhan al-Maliki, charged for his religious beliefs that conflict with the official extremist religious institution.

ESOHR believes that the prisoners currently threatened with execution at various levels of the judicial process are proof that the Saudi government uses this form of punishment as a means for silencing individuals and keeping the public completely ignorant of international laws and commitments it has sworn to uphold.

In August 2018, ESOHR also monitored the case of 51 prisoners facing death sentences at various levels of the judicial process. With this new report, it is clear that the Saudi government has added some new names to its death list.

In light of the latest information concerning the Saudi government’s secrecy and lack of statement over the execution of an Indonesia housemaid, something traditionally done by the Ministry of Interior, ESOHR believes that it is impossible to anticipate what may happen to those prisoners sentenced to death, raising concerns over their lives and the lives of others whose cases go unobserved.


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