[JURIST] A group of UN human rights experts on Tuesday urged authorities in Saudi Arabia to block the execution [press release] of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr [IBT backgrounder], who was convicted of involvement in the Arab Spring protests when he was 17. The experts said, “[a]ny judgment imposing the death penalty upon persons who were children at the time of the offence, and their execution, are incompatible with Saudi Arabia’s international obligations.” Al-Nimr was reportedly tortured and mistreated by the General Investigation Directorate until he was eventually forced into confessing his guilt. The experts also stressed that, “[i]nternational law, accepted as binding by Saudi Arabia, provides that capital punishment may only be imposed following trials that comply with the most stringent requirements of fair trial and due process, or could otherwise be considered an arbitrary execution.” The independent experts added that “Saudi Arabia may so far this year have executed at least 134 people, which already represents 44 more than the total for the whole of last year.”
Saudi Arabia’s justice system has drawn international criticism for alleged human rights abuses in recent years. In June a Saudi court upheld [JURIST report] blogger Raif Badawi’s sentence of 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for “insulting Islam through electronic channels.” In January a Saudi judge sentenced prominent human rights lawyer Walid Abu al-Khair to an additional five years in jail [JURIST report] after he refused to show remorse for “showing disrespect” to authorities and creating an unauthorized association. In December a Saudi court ordered [JURIST report] the criminal cases against two women’s rights activists be transferred to a special tribunal for terrorism. The women were arrested for attempting to drive into Saudi Arabia from the UAE. In October a Saudi Arabia Court sentenced three lawyers to between five and eight years in prison for criticizing the justice system [JURIST report] on Twitter by accusing authorities of carrying out arbitrary detentions.