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SAUDI ARABIA: Outcry as Saudi Arabia executes young Shia man for ‘rebellion’

Outcry as Saudi Arabia executes young Shia man for ‘rebellion’

Rights groups say Mustafa bin Hashim bin Isa al-Darwish was a minor when alleged offences committed


The Guardian (15.06.2021) – https://bit.ly/3zthvPh – Saudi Arabia has executed a young man who was convicted on charges stemming from his participation in an anti-government rebellion by minority Shia Muslims. A leading rights group said his trial was “deeply flawed”.


It was unclear whether Mustafa bin Hashim bin Isa al-Darwish, 26, was executed for crimes committed as a minor, according to Amnesty International. The rights group said he was detained in 2015 for alleged participation in riots between 2011 and 2012.


The official charge sheet does not specify the dates his alleged crimes took place, meaning he could have been 17 at the time, or just turned 18.


The government maintains he was convicted and executed for crimes committed above the age of 19, though no specific dates for his alleged crimes have been given.


Last year, the kingdom halted its practice of executing people for crimes committed as a minor.


The interior ministry said he was executed on Tuesday after being found guilty of participating in the formation of an armed terrorist cell to monitor and target to kill police officers, attempting to kill police officers, shooting at police patrols and making molotov cocktails to target police.


Other charges included participating in armed rebellion against the ruler and provoking chaos and sectarian strife. The crimes allegedly transpired in the eastern province, where most Saudi oil is concentrated and home to a significant indigenous Shia population. The execution was carried out in Dammam, the province’s administrative capital.


At the height of arab spring uprisings across the region, the kingdom experienced unrest among Saudi Shia youth who took to the eastern province’s impoverished streets of Qatif. They demanded jobs, better opportunities and an end to discrimination by the kingdom’s ultraconservative state-backed Sunni institutions and clerics.


Saudi security forces backed by armoured vehicles set up checkpoints and suppressed the protests, rounding up an unknown number of protesters. The government later razed homes belonging to Shia residents of the restive city of al-Awamiyah in 2017 in an area that was several hundred years old. Officials said the al-Musawara district had become a hideout for local militants, and promised to develop the area.


Over the years, numerous executions of Shia Muslims involved in violent protests have been carried out.


In 2019, Saudi Arabia executed 37 citizens, of which 34 were identified as Shia, in a mass execution for alleged terrorism-related crimes. In 2016, the kingdom executed 47 people in one day also for terrorism-related crimes. Among those executed was prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, whose death sparked protests from Pakistan to Iran and the ransacking of the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Saudi-Iran ties have not recovered and the embassy remains shuttered.


The kingdom has in the past implicitly accused Iran of being behind armed Shia groups in Saudi Arabia, saying they are acting “under instructions from abroad”.


Amnesty International said al-Darwish, who was arrested when he was 20, was placed in solitary confinement, held incommunicado for six months and denied access to a lawyer until the beginning of his trial two years later by the specialized criminal court in Riyadh, established to try terrorism cases.


The supreme court upheld al-Darwish’s death sentence. Amnesty International said his case was then referred to the presidency of state security, which is overseen directly by the royal court and over which Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wields immense power. The Saudi monarch, King Salman, ratifies executions, most of which are carried out by beheading.


The kingdom has carried out 26 executions so far this year, according to the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights. That’s compared with 27 throughout all of 2020. The sharp drop in executions last year was largely due to changes that ended executions for nonviolent drug-related crimes.


Photo credits: Cliff Owen/AP

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MENA REGION: Middle East home to 88% of global executions in 2020

Iran, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia occupy four of the top five positions globally according to data from Amnesty International. People executed by Riyadh (down 85%) and Baghdad (down 50%) are decreasing. Dizzying increase in Cairo of more than 300%. The global figure is the lowest in the last decade.


AsiaNews (21.04.2021) – https://bit.ly/2QnG6TV – Four of the top five countries at a global level – excluding China, which does not provide official data – to preform executions last year are in the Middle East.


Amnesty International ‘s latest report reveals that 88% of the total executions worldwide in 2020 took place in Iran, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Tehran, moreover, is the first in the world for people executed in relation to the population.


The global figure of executed death sentences is the lowest in the last decade. However, the numbers do not include the executions in China, where there are thousands of annual executions and the use of capital punishment is widespread, but the figures remain state secrets.


According to the activist group, there is a “ruthless and chilling persistence” of executions in the Middle East, in spite of the global Covid-19 pandemic which for the first months of last year had resulted in a partial reduction.


Analyzing the data, the overall number fell from 579 in 2019 to 437 in 2020. Among the countries that recorded the most consistent decline, Saudi Arabia with a minus 85% (27 in total) and in Iraq with a reduction of 50% (45 executions).


However, the decline in some countries is overshadowed by the 300% increase recorded in Egypt, which executed 107 people in one year, becoming the third nation in the world. Of these, at least 23 were convicted of crimes related to “political violence” within unfair trials and with “confessions” extrapolated by force, combined with other psychological and physical abuse and harassment.


Iran, with at least 246 official executions, is the second nation in the world behind China, whose numbers remain unknown. For activists, Tehran adopts an increasing use of the death penalty as a “weapon of political repression” against dissidents, protesters and members of minorities.


Photo credits: picture-alliance/dpa/A.Abdullah

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Belarus: UN human rights experts denounce execution

OHCHR (01.07.2019) — https://bit.ly/2xHjlNA — Belarus must halt the executions of individuals who have submitted complaints to the Human Rights Committee, UN human rights experts said today upon being informed about the execution of Aleksandr Zhilnikov whose case is being examined by the Committee.

The Human Rights Committee, together with the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus and the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, strongly condemn Belarus for its continued use of the death penalty, following local news reports that the country had defied the Human Rights Committee’s requests for a stay of execution for Aleksandr Zhilnikov. To date, Belarus has disregarded every Committee request for interim measures not to execute individuals while their cases were under the Committee’s consideration. The Committee’s procedure known as interim measures aims to stop the State from taking any action that would have irreparable consequences. Non-compliance with that procedure constitutes a serious violation by Belarus of its international obligations under article 1 of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Belarus acceded in 1992.

“By not complying with the requests of the Committee to stay execution until the allegations of due process violations are examined, Belarus not only shows disrespect to the Committee, it also shows lack of respect toward the right to life itself”, said Yuval Shany, Vice-Chair of the Human Rights Committee and one of the Special Rapporteurs on new communications and interim measures.

“Capital punishment may only be carried out after a legal process that gives all possible safeguards, including those provided for in international human rights law, to ensure a fair trial and pursuant to a final judgement”, said Agnes Callamard, the Special Rapporteur on summary executions. “We remind Belarus that the only thing that distinguishes capital punishment from arbitrary execution is full respect for stringent due process guarantees.”

Mr. Zhilnikov became the 14th person whose execution was carried out despite his pending case before the Human Rights Committee, in disregard of the Committee’s request to halt the execution while the independent experts examined his allegations of human rights violations. He was initially sentenced to life in prison, however upon re-trial was sentenced to death in 2018. His pending complaint before the UN Human Rights Committee alleges that he was tortured in detention, denied access to legal assistance, and was subjected to an unfair trial.

“It is time for Belarus to show political will and leadership on the question of the death penalty and review its retentionist stand. The official line that the death penalty should be maintained until a majority of the population supports its abolition should be reconsidered. It is up to the Government to lead the debate and actively work to change mentalities in favour of abolition,” said Anaïs Marin, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus.

Belarus remains the last country in Europe and Central Asia that applies the death penalty. In its last report on the Republic of Belarus published in November 2018 (available in English and in Russian), the Human Rights Committee emphasized that Belarus “should consider establishing a moratorium on executions as an initial step towards legal abolition of the death penalty and ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant, commute all pending death sentences to imprisonment and increase efforts to change public perception about the necessity of maintaining the death penalty”.

Despite Mr. Zhilnikov’s death, the Human Rights Committee will, per its usual practice, fully examine his case.


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List of hundreds of documented cases of believers of various faiths in 20 countries: http://hrwf.eu/forb/forb-and-blasphemy-prisoners-list/  

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