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Mardi 19 Novembre 2019

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They were convicted of minor crimes as teens and now face beheading and 'crucifixion' in Saudi Arabia

Monday 15th of July 2019 | Asie, Arabie Saoudie
ABC News
Nouvelle

When Ali al-Nimr was 17, he says he was suddenly rammed by a Saudi Arabian government vehicle while riding his motorcycle through the eastern district of Qatif.

What happened next would change his life forever.

Al-Nimr was taken to a local police station, where he was beaten so badly he had to be transferred to a hospital, his lawyer said.

Initially, al-Nimr was hit with relatively minor charges related to his participation in the widespread 2011 to 2012 Arab Spring demonstrations against Shia repression in the eastern part of the country, where most of the population resides.

But when his uncle, the reformist Shia cleric and protest leader Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, was arrested, prosecutors ramped up their case. Instead of minor infractions related to the protests, al-Nimr now stood accused of joining a terrorist organization, throwing Molotov cocktails and arson.

After being moved to an adult prison at the age of 18, he confessed to a string of crimes under extreme torture, according to his lawyer, Taha al-Hajji. At trial, al-Nimr rescinded his confession, but this was ignored by the presiding judge, according to al-Hajji.

Then, in May 2014, al-Nimr was sentenced to death by "crucifixion," contrary to Article 37 of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that no individual should be sentenced to death for crimes committed under the age of 18. Saudi Arabia is one of the 196 countries that has ratified the CRC.

Al-Nimr, now 24, is not alone. In fact, he is one of three Saudi Arabian men known to be on death row who were arrested and charged with crimes allegedly committed when they were minors.

The cases of al-Nimr, Abdullah al-Zaher, 23, and Dawood al-Marhoon, 24, follow the brutally familiar pattern of arrest, torture and then, once they could be tried as adults, being sentenced to death for crimes against the state committed before they turned 18, according to Reprieve, the human rights advocates campaigning for their release.

The U.N.'s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, an independent body that investigates "cases of deprivation of liberty," stated in 2017 that the Arab Spring protests were "recognized by the international community as peaceful" and that the trio "did not engage in any violent or hostile acts." The men were not arrested during the protests -- only after -- and no warrants were presented at the time of their arrests.

The Saudi Ministry of Justice has not responded to ABC News' request for comment for this story.

According to Reprieve case files, al-Zaher and al-Marhoon underwent an ordeal nearly identical to al-Nimr. Reprieve said that on March 3, 2012, 15-year-old al-Zaher was arrested, beaten, shot at and held in solitary confinement in Dammam after allegedly participating in protests.

"In prison, Saudi police tortured Abdullah -- including beating him with wire iron rods -- and forced him to sign a paper that he had not read, without allowing him to speak to his family or a lawyer," Reprieve wrote.

In May of that year, at 16, after refusing to "spy" on protesters, al-Marhoon was arrested in Dammam Central Hospital, where he was receiving treatment for injuries sustained in a traffic accident, Reprieve said.

"The Saudi authorities tortured him for weeks and refused to allow him to communicate with anyone on the outside world," the organization said. "For two weeks, Dawood's family had no idea where Saudi authorities were holding him, and he was prevented from speaking to a lawyer."

Both were transferred to adult prison at the age of 18 and allegedly tortured into confessing to the crime of "herabah," meaning banditry, according to the U.N. and Reprieve. The men were tried jointly and sentenced to death by crucifixion on Oct. 21, 2014, according to Reprieve case files.

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