While welcoming of the commutation of the death sentences of three Shia Muslim minors in Saudi Arabia, UN experts on Wednesday called for the country to quash their convictions and release them.
The new sentence is 10 years imprisonment, including the time served. Ali al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon and Abdullah al-Zaher were under the age of 18 when they were convicted of crimes after attending protests.
Ali Al-Nimr is the nephew of prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, whose 2016 execution sparked protests in Saudi Arabia and Iran. Ali Al-Nimr was 17 when he was detained in February 2012 for protesting in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. Ali al-Namr, and the other two minors accused who were also protesting, faced beheading. The human rights experts stated:
“We continue to receive allegations of torture and ill-treatment to extract confessions, and in relation to the imposition of the death penalty for crimes which do not meet the threshold of ‘most serious crimes’, required under international law. We reiterate that under no circumstances should the death penalty be applied to individuals who are exercising their fundamental rights of freedoms of expression, assembly and religion or belief.”
The UN human rights experts also noted that Saudi Arabia’s continued use of the death penalty violates international law. While the government has had a moratorium on applying the death penalty to drug-related offenses since January 2021, the UN pushed for a codification of this practice.