Home » Reports » The Public Prosecutor’s Office in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is Seeking Crucifixion of Torture Victim Jalal Labbad – for Alleged Crimes Committed as a Child

The Public Prosecutor’s Office in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is Seeking Crucifixion of Torture Victim Jalal Labbad – for Alleged Crimes Committed as a Child

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On 24 January 2019, the Public Prosecutor’s Office in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has sought the hudud penalty for hirabah [unlawful warfare or insurgency] for Jalal Hassan Labbad (born on 3 April 1995), on a variety of charges including demonstrating, some of which date back to when he was a minor. This petition comes in the context of unprecedented escalation of similar demands.

Jalal Labbad was arrested on 23 February 2017, after security forces raided his family’s home in the city of Al-Awamiyah. The unit carrying out the raid did not present an arrest warrant, nor was Labbad accused of anything prior to the raid.

Jalal Labbad was subjected to horrific detention conditions from the first day, including isolation from the outside world in solitary confinement for nine and a half months (over two separate time periods). He was also deprived of his right to legal counsel and suffered severe torture and other forms of ill-treatment that degrade human dignity. This took place during the interrogation period between February and December of 2017, for the purpose of forcing him to make specific statements.

The most notable forms of torture suffered by Labbad include:

  • Beating by approximately four to six people at the same time, using plastic wires and metal cables.
  • Shocking him with electricity in all parts of his body, including sensitive areas (genitals).
  • Kicking all parts of his body, including the genitals, by approximately four to six people with steel-toe military boots, at the same time.
  • Stepping on his neck with military boots until he choked.
  • Dunking his head for several minutes in a basin full of water until he lost breath.
  • Intensified beating of his right femur even after the interrogator knew of the presence of metal pins in that part of his body.
  • Forcing him to sit in a chair, shackling his hands and feet, and torturing him.
  • Beating him until he fainted and foam came out of his mouth and nose.

Beyond the lethal methods of torture used against him, Jalal Labbad has experienced various forms of psychological torture, such as confining him for days on end in a very cramped, cold, and dark room measuring approximately one meter by two meters. At other times, he was placed in a room brightly lit at all times, including sleeping hours, and supplied with freezing cold water that was hard to use. Furthermore, the interrogator intentionally directed vulgar comments and sectarian insults against him, such as “son of mut’a [temporary marriage], rejectionist, all of you Shiites are Magians and unbelievers.” In addition, the interrogator insulted Labbad’s sisters, calling them prostitutes and threatening to bring them in and rape them, and he continually threatened to kill Labbad in order to force him to certify confessions written by the interrogator himself.

As a result of torture, Jalal was hospitalized more than once with frequent fainting, low blood pressure, weak heartbeat, and severe swelling in his right thigh due to concentrated beating in that area.

Complications from approximately ten months of torture continue to gnaw at his body and cause him constant pain, which prevents him from sleeping without sleeping pills. Also, intense beating of his testicles resulted in varicocele disorder, causing severe pain, excessive blood collection, and blood in his urine. Moreover, he suffers from persistent swelling in his right thigh (which contains metal pins) as a result of torture concentrated on that area, loss of focus, and persistent forgetfulness, as he repeats the same words several times.

Two years and five months after his arrest, Jalal appeared before the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh. The Public Prosecution filed a set of charges against him, including participating in demonstrations when he was 15 years old and attending the funerals of victims shot by government forces.

In addition, the Public Prosecution charged him with helping to treat and shelter wanted persons who were wounded and with being involved, along with several persons wanted by security forces, in the case of the judge in the Endowments and Inheritance Court, Sheikh Mohammed al-Jirani, who was kidnapped and murdered. In the latter case, the prosecutor did not specify Jalal’s role in the matter. Jalal was also charged with shooting at and throwing Molotov cocktails at soldiers.

From al-Jirani’s kidnapping in December 2016, until January 2018 (about a year and a half before Jalal received his indictment), Saudi Arabia killed nine people extrajudicially under the pretext of involvement in this crime. Although the Ministry of Interior’s security spokesman, in two press conferences held to clarify developments in the case, failed to mention Jalal’s name on the list of suspects, the Public Prosecutor’s Office charged him with participating in the crime alongside several people wanted by the security forces.

Using the al-Jirani case against Labbad is not an unusual circumstance. ESOHR has previously documented that the security spokesman, the Public Prosecution, and official newspapers have accused 22 people in this case (and possibly two others). Nine of the suspects were killed extrajudicially, although the Saudi government did not charge them with involvement in the crime until after they were killed. Confidential sources told ESOHR that several of those arrested and charged in this case suffered cruel torture. One of them, Mohammed Al Ammar, has been forcibly disappeared from the outside world for 149 days, raising the possibility that he is suffering from systematic torture and inhumane treatment.

Under the reign of King Salman bin Abdulaziz, Saudi Arabia has become known for serious and unprecedented human rights violations, including record numbers of political executions. Since the current monarch took power in January 2015, Saudi Arabia has carried out 789 executions, including 185 in the year 2019.

Currently, there are 47 prisoners, at various stages of prosecution, facing execution, including 13 minors. Most of them have suffered torture and other forms of inhuman treatment. On 24 March 2020, a royal order was issued to stop the implementation of all ta’zir [discretionary] death sentences against those under the age of 18, and to amend all sentences in accordance with the juvenile system such that the maximum penalty shall be imprisonment for no more than ten years. While the Saudi government has not yet taken any active steps to ensure the implementation of this royal order, ESOHR has also noticed the royal order contains serious loopholes that, in contravention of international laws, exclude children who fall under the category of qisas [retributive justice] sentences or hirabah. This leaves several minors at risk of execution, including Jalal Labbad, whose death the Public Prosecution is seeking under the hudud penalty for hirabah.

Moreover, through its monitoring of the trials and the nature of the procedures in effect during the interrogation period, ESOHR believes that King Salman and his son, the Crown Prince, are the ones pushing this unprecedented torture. By their absolute authority, they provide protection to perpetrators of torture crimes and drive the process of impunity. Although many victims have told the court about the torture they suffered and that confessions were extracted from them under the stress of torture, the Public Prosecutor—who reports directly to King Salman—has continued his prosecutions, defended the appropriateness of the procedures, and denied torture without carrying out investigations. This takes place under non-independent judges who do not lift a finger and issue death sentences based on statements extracted under torture.

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