NEW YORK – The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) condemns the death penalty imposed on Ali Mohammed al-Nimr and urgently calls on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to halt his execution and order a retrial of his case. Al-Nimr is a 21-year-old high school student born to a Shiite family of outspoken government critics. In 2012, he was arrested in the country’s eastern province for participating in a demonstration inspired by the Arab Spring. On September 14, 2015, the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Specialized Criminal Court to sentence al-Nimr to death for "breaking allegiance with the ruler," "participating in demonstrations against the state," "setting up a website to incite demonstrations," and "attacking the police"—charges to which he confessed under duress. The Saudi high court ordered the capital penalty against al-Nimr to be carried out by beheading and crucifixion.
“The sentence against al-Nimr stands as an example of the cruelty of Saudi Arabia’s totalitarian criminal justice system, which allows the gruesome killing of juveniles simply for protesting against the government. The horrific court-ordered execution should not be ratified by the King, and al-Nimr should be released immediately,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of HRF.
The trial that led to al-Nimr’s sentence fell short of international legal standards of due process. He was denied access to his lawyer and was reportedly subjected to torture and ill treatment in order to force his confession. Al-Nimr has spent the last three years in prison. Earlier this month, the court rejected his final appeal and he will be executed as soon as the King ratifies the sentence. Despite its international human rights record, Saudi Arabia was appointed by the United Nations on September 20, 2015, to head a key Human Rights Council panel.
“King Salman’s absolute monarchy routinely ignores the most basic human rights of Saudi citizens and has one of the highest rates of executions in the world. Before engaging in the farce of heading a UN Human Rights Council panel, the Kingdom’s horrifically repressive court system must be overhauled to conform to the mandates of international human rights law,” added Halvorssen.
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.