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Six months after four minors were executed, nine others remain at risk despite pledges by Saudi to end child executions

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On the 28th February 2014, Saudi Arabia in a report submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council said: ‘The death penalty fall for minors, and it is not carried out on children at all, and it should be noted that the definition of a child under KSA policies is in accordance with the definition of a child in Article (1) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child’. However, on the 2nd  of January 2016 and only twenty months after that report, Saudi Arabia executed 47 people, including four minors, forming the second-largest mass execution in its history, after the execution of 61 people in 7 January 1980.

The execution of 2nd January 2016, sparked a succession of condemnation, as expressed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon‘s dismay, who considered that the trials (particularly that to the execution of Sheikh Nimr) raised serious concerns about the nature of the charges and the fairness of the trial. Also the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein expressed his regrets regarding the executions carried out by Saudi Arabia urging them to ban executions, and also expressed concerns that the provisions did not meet a strict set of substantive and procedural requirements. The High Representative for Security and Foreign Policy Affairs in the European Union, Ms. Federica Mogherini, also raised concerns regarding freedom of expression and respect for basic civil and political rights, and she confirmed that they must be protected in all cases, including cases considered to be related to counter terrorism.

Saudi official bodies, including the Interior Ministry and the Justice Ministry, rejected such criticism and claimed that the provisions occur in accordance with guarantees of a defence and the death judgment is confirmed only after exhausting all levels of litigation.  The Saudi National Society for Human Rights, held that ‘trials met the legality and due process of law and the principles and rules of fair trial and get convicted on the guarantees’.

However, the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR), confirms that according to some of the cases that it has monitored and documented, execution cases by Saudi government violate a number of international conventions and provisions: Failing to ensure the necessary conditions for a fair trial, and implementing executions based on confessions extracted under torture, represent a major major violation by the state, both provisions of which are contained under the Children Rights Agreement of which Saudi Arabia is a member.

Ali Saeed Al-Rebeh, was one of the key cases ESOHR monitored, closely following the progress of the trial and documenting the violations committed against him. He was arrested on 12th February 2012, whilst aged of eighteen years and two months. He stood accused of taking part in demonstrations in February of 2011, and other charges when he was 17 years old, and he was executed based on those charges.

A documentary film pointed that some of who were arrested by Saudi Arabia, were captured on suspicion of belonging to al-Qaeda, but also highlighted that they were of a young age and were not fully aware of the reality of things due to their juvenility. Although the trials in Saudi Arabia are not transparent, and it is difficult to access information about each of the executed in the 2nd January 2016, our research shows there were other minors : Mishaal Hammoud al-Faraj (17 years) – Amin Mohamed al-Ghamdi (17 years) – the Chadian Mustafa Muhammad Tahir Abkar (14 years). The available information indicates that they were arrested in raids in June 2003 in Khalidiya in the Mecca district, and in January 2004, and their ages were below 18.  As explained during of interviews and documentaries, some of them stopped their militant thoughts, and according to Saudi media, they didn’t undertake a specific crime that warrant the sanction of the death penalty, and were detained for nearly 13 years in prison before being executed. The police chief of Mecca said that they are nerey children who would have thought that they was brought to attend Quranic courses.

The European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR), called the Saudi government for a transparent and unannounced audits on 2nd January 2016 executions, and calls for an involvement of neutral parties to ensure human rights and legal parameters are adhered to. Failure to do this led to the implementation of these executions, which also ncluded four minors.


9 minors at risk of execution:

Despite the flaws and shortcomings apparent in the fragmented justice system that was responsible for the killing of four minors on January 2nd, ESOHR documented the existence of 9 minors that are currently threatened by execution on death row. Their cases are in differed stages: Tandhose who are at imminent risk may be killed at any moment, Ali al-Nimir, Abdullah alZaher, Dawood al-Marhoon, Whilst those who received an initial death sentence and are awaiting appeal are:Hussein Ali alBata, Saeed Mohammed alSkafi , Salman Amin al-Koraysh, Mojtaba alSuwaiket, Abdullah Salman Al Surih, Hassan Abdul Wahab Al Jazer.

Many of them were arrested at an age of less than 18 years old, and some were arrested over the age of eighteen, but regardless, all faced charges related to ‘crimes’ conducted less than 18 years of age. ESOHR documented cases of some of them in previous reports, and uncovered that some had been tortured to extract confessions, whilst some of the confessions had been written in the interrogators handwriting and the young detainees were coerced into signing, with trials that lacked the conditions of a fair trial.



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