Saudi Arabia’s authorities have demonstrated their utter disregard for human rights and life by executing 47 people in a single day, said Amnesty International.
Those put to death Saturday included Shi’a Muslim cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who, according to Amnesty, was convicted after a “political and grossly unfair trial” at the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC).
With the exception of the Sheikh and three Shi’a Muslim activists, the others were convicted of involvement with al-Qa’ida.
“Saudi Arabia’s authorities have indicated that the executions were carried out to fight terror and safeguard security. However, the killing of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in particular suggests they are also using the death penalty in the name of counter-terror to settle scores and crush dissidents,” said Philip Luther, director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.
Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr had been a vocal critic of the Saudi Arabian government and was among seven activists whose death sentences were upheld. They had all been arrested for participating in protests in the Kingdom’s predominantly Shi’a Eastern Province in 2011, and for calling for political reform.
Also sentenced to death following their participation in these protests were Ali al-Nimr, the Sheikh’s nephew, Abdullah al-Zaher and Dawood Hussein al-Maroon, all of whom were under 18 at the time of their arrest.
According to Amnesty, all three remain at imminent risk of execution, after being convicted in deeply unfair trials and claiming to have suffered torture and other ill-treatment.
“A first step would be for them to remove the threat of execution currently hanging over individuals sentenced for ‘crimes’ they committed while they were children,” said Philip Luther.
International law prohibits the use of the death penalty against anyone under the age of 18.
Saudi Arabia has long been one of the most prolific executioners in the world. Between January and November 2015, Saudi Arabia executed at least 151 people, amounting to its highest recorded number of executions in a single year since 1995.
In many death penalty cases defendants are denied access to a lawyer and in some cases they are convicted on the basis of “confessions” obtained under torture or other ill-treatment.
Amnesty says it opposes the death penalty at all times and in all cases without exception – regardless of who is accused, the crime, guilt or innocence or method of execution.
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