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UN rights experts urge Riyadh to stop child executions

A Saudi man sentenced to death is seen knelt before being beheaded in Saudi Arabia. (file photo)

A group of human rights experts affiliated with the United Nations has called on the Saudi regime to stop executing children, saying Riyadh must abide by the terms of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“Any judgment imposing the death penalty upon persons who were children at the time of the offense, and their execution, are incompatible with Saudi Arabia’s international obligations,” the group said on Tuesday.

The experts also voiced concern over the fate of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr (shown below), who was arrested during an anti-government protest in Qatif, Eastern Province, back in 2012 when he was only 17 years old. Nimr was later convicted of alleged criminal activities and handed down a death penalty by Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court in May 2015.

“Mr. al-Nimr did not receive a fair trial and his lawyer was not allowed to properly assist him and was prevented from accessing the case file,” they said, noting, “International 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.”

Ali Mohammed is the nephew of prominent Saudi Shia cleric Ayatollah Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who has also been sentenced to death on charges of disturbing the kingdom’s security, making anti-government speeches, and defending political prisoners.

People demand the release of prominent Shia cleric Ayatollah Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr in Tarut, Saudi Arabia, May 30, 2015. (AP)

The rights activists further slammed resorting to torture to extract confessions from prisoners in Saudi jails, stressing that any such confessions “are unacceptable and cannot be used as evidence before court.”

The experts also referred to the increasing number of executions in the kingdom, urging the Riyadh regime “to establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.”

“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… Such a surge in executions in the country makes Saudi Arabia a sad exception in a world where states are increasingly moving away from the death penalty,” they noted.

Riyadh has been under fire for having one of the world’s highest execution rates. Under the Saudi law, apostasy, armed robbery, drug trafficking, rape and murder carry the death penalty.

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