UN human rights experts urge Saudi authorities to stop imminent execution of seven men

GENEVA (12 March 2013) – A group of United Nations independent experts on extrajudicial executions, torture, and arbitrary detention today urged the Saudi authorities to halt the execution of seven Saudi nationals, who are at imminent risk after their death sentences were recently upheld by the highest judicial authorities.

According to reports, Sarhan b Ahmad b Abdullah Al Mashaikh, Saeed b Hassan b. Ahmad Al Omari Al Zahrani, Ali b. Mohamed b. Hazzam Al Shahri, Nasser b Saeed b Saad Al Qahtani, Saeed b. Nasser b Mohamed Al Yaala Al Shahrani, Abdulaziz b Saleh b Mohamed Al Amri, and Ali b Hadi b Saeed Al Qahtani, were charged with organising a criminal group, armed robbery and raiding and breaking into jewellery stores in 2005, and consequently sentenced to death in Asir in 2009.

The charges against all seven persons were allegedly fabricated and all seven were convicted following unfair trials. The execution scheduled on 5 March was postponed for one week and may be carried out on 13 March 2013.

“In countries that have not abolished the death penalty, capital punishment may be imposed only following a trial that complied with fair trial and due process safeguards.” Said the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, while expressing concern that seven individuals are to be executed for the crimes that cannot be considered as most serious crimes and he expressed serious concern about the way these trials were conducted.

“Any death sentence undertaken in contravention of a Government’s international obligations is tantamount to an arbitrary execution,” Mr. Heyns underlined. “Only full respect for stringent due process guarantees distinguishes capital punishment as possibly permitted under international law from a summary execution, which by definition violates human rights standards.”

“Also of grave concern, are allegations that the seven individuals were subjected to torture and other ill-treatment in detention and were forced to sign confessions,” added the Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez.

“This is not only in breach of Saudi Arabia’s international obligations under the international law, which imposes an outright prohibition on torture, it is also in breach of the Government’s international obligation under the convention against torture that explicitly forbids the use of all forms of torture for the purpose of extracting confessions or acquiring information,” Mr. Méndez stressed.

Rights expert El Hadji Malick Sow, who currently chairs the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, also expressed concern that the death penalty was imposed and is to be carried out following possible violation of the right to liberty and security of all seven individuals, because it “regards cases of deprivation of liberty as arbitrary under customary international law in cases where the total or partial non-observance of the international norms relating to the right to a fair trial established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the relevant international instruments is of such gravity as to give the deprivation of liberty an arbitrary character.”

UN Human Rights, country page – Saudi Arabia: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/SAIndex.aspx

For more information log on to:
Summary executions: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Executions/Pages/SRExecutionsIndex.aspx
Torture: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Torture/SRTorture/Pages/SRTortureIndex.aspx
Arbitrary detention: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Detention/Pages/WGADIndex.aspx

Check the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CAT.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Sharof Azizov (+41 22 917 9748 / sazizov@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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