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Seven years have passed since Ali al-Nimr was arrested at the age of 17. He was arrested with several others on February 14, 2012, against the backdrop of the peaceful demonstrations that took place in Saudi Arabia in 2011. In 2014, his name emerged alongside his fellow minors after they were sentenced to death following unfair trials that involvedmany violations of their rights.
In 2019, Ali al-Nimr remains in detention and under imminent threat of execution, along with seven other children facing charges related to the 2011 demonstrations: Dawood al-Marhoon, Abdullah al-Zaher, Saeed al-Sikafi, Salman AlQuraish, Mujtaba al-Swaiket, Abdullah al-Sarih, and AbdulKarimal-Hawaj. According to credible information confirmed by the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights, there are other children besides these who are also under threat of execution.
In March 2018, the official Saudi media announced legal amendments stating that the death penalty will not be applied to those 15 years of age or younger and that they would be sentenced to no more than 10 years in prison. Juveniles have already been identified as those under the age of 18. These amendments are mentioned in the “juvenile system,” which calculates the child’s status as a “juvenile” based on the Hijri calendar. So far, the applicationsof this system have not been made clear:children are still executed, and the public prosecutor continues to seek the death penalty against children arrested on political grounds.
The arrest of Ali al-Nimr was a clear manifestation of Saudi Arabia’s repression and its various violations at the beginning of the civil and political rights demonstrations in 2011. A legal analysis by judge and independent expert, Zafar Gondal, confirmed the invalidity of the ruling and the judge’s incompetence.
The case of Ali al-Nimr has provoked many international reactioncalling for his protection, including the call of Elena Valenciano,the former chairwoman of the European Parliament’s Committee on Human Rights, in November 2015, to immediately halt the imminent execution of Ali Al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon, and those accused of crimes against the government.
Furthermore, in September 2015, former German human rights commissioner, Christoph Strässer, asked Saudi Arabia to drop the death penalty against minor, Ali al-Nimr, and to respect the international standards set forth in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In July 2016, several members of the European Parliament sent a letter to Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, pointing out the need to include the subject of Saudi Arabia’s practice of child execution on the agenda.
Several countries on the Human Rights Council have called for the protection of minors from the death penalty, and Ali al-Nimr’s name appeared in some nations’ statements. In September 2015, Ireland expressed its deep concern about reports that note the increasing use of the death penalty.
In addition, various bodies of the Human Rights Council have called for the protection of al-Nimr. In September 2016, four UN rapporteurs wrote to Saudi Arabia about the cases of six detainees, three of whom are sentenced to death: Ali al-Nimr, Mujtaba al-Swaiket, and Munir Al Adam. The letter expressed the rapporteurs’ concerns about torture and ill-treatment, including forced confessions, failure to investigate claims of torture and prosecute torturers, the use of corporal punishment, and the imposition of the death penalty after unfair trials.
On June 8, 2016, the UN Committee Against Torture submitted its concluding observations on the issue of torture in Saudi Arabia. In its report, the committee called for detailed data to be provided on the implementation of the death penalty and upcoming sentences, particularly against children, including Ali al-Nimr.
On October 25, 2016, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child submitted its report on Saudi Arabia’s application of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and urged Saudi Arabia to immediately end the execution of persons under the age of 18, including Ali al-Nimr.
On February 6, 2017, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued a legal opinion demanding that Saudi Arabia immediately release three minors (Ali al-Nimr, Dawood Al-Marhoon, and Abdullah al-Zaher) and compensate them in accordance with international law.
In February 2018, UN rapporteurs and experts warned Saudi Arabia against carrying out the death penalty against six individuals sentenced for crimes they committed when they were under the age of 18, including Ali al-Nimr.
On the seventh anniversary of the arrest of minor Ali al-Nimr, the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights emphasizes that his detention is a violation of his fundamental right to freedom, as well as a threat to his right to life, as a human and a child. The only remedy in this case is to release him and to drop the death penalty against him and all those who were arrested as children or sentenced on charges that allegedly occurred in childhood.