Saudi Arabia, a US ally and close friend, is set to crucify and behead three juveniles for their involvement in pro-democracy demonstrations during the Arab Spring protests in 2011-2012 that engulfed North Africa and the Middle East.
The three victims, Ali Muhammad Al-Nimr, Dawood Al-Marhoon, and Abdullah Al-Zaher, were aged 15 to 17 at the time of their arrest. They called for a more representative democracy, fair elections and an end to the systematic discrimination and hostility that Shia citizens face in the Kingdom.
Saudi police arrested and accused them of “crimes” that should be considered basic human rights such as participating in demonstrations, providing first-aid to injured demonstrators, owning BlackBerry devices to coordinate protests and “breaking allegiance with the ruler.”
More serious, but bogus, charges of violence and robbery were added based on confessions obtained under torture – such as severe beatings, electrical shocks, trampling and solitary confinement. Furthermore, the victims were denied legal counsel during the interrogations and lawyers were denied access to meet the defendants in prison. In at least one case, the investigators assured the accused that confessing is their only way for their release.
Human Rights groups such as Human Rights Watch, Reprieve, European Saudi Organization for Human Rights, Amnesty International, United Nations, and many others have blasted the trial as unfair and demanded an immediate halt to the executions.
Human Rights Watch reports that a detailed review of the trial judgments “reveal flagrant due process violations” and “courts didn’t even bother to investigate when they said they were coerced to confess.”
“Literally, [their execution] can be any day,” Esha Krishnaswamy, an activist associated with CodePink, tells The Progressive Army. Saudi Arabia does not announce their executions beforehand. “The only news of life we get is on Thursdays when Ali [Al-Nimr] and Dawood [Al-Marhoon] call, and on Sundays when Abdullah [Al-Zaher] calls.”
If these brutal and inhumane punishments are carried, the bodies and heads would be severed and hung for public display. Executioners may resort to other methods such as execution by firing squad.
The families who are not allowed to visit their children in prison have nothing to rely on but hope and prayer. That hope relies on King Salman issuing a pardon to the three innocent victims. But if that pardon doesn’t come, they fear that they would read the state newspaper one day with news of their children’s execution. “Each minute, my heart feels 60 beats of pain,” Al-Nimr’s mother, Um Baqer, describes her ordeal.
Ali Al-Nimr’s father believes that these charges against his son were motivated by the fact Ali’s uncle, Sheikh Nimr, was a prominent Shiite cleric in the region and a vocal critic of the Royal family. Sheikh Nimr was later executed with 46 others which sparked international condemnation.
Despite the risk of further retaliation, the family has spoken publicly against this heinous crime against their son. “They have taken everything I love in this world; there is nothing more they can do to me that’s worse than what they did to Ali. Torturing Ali was 100 times worse than torturing me,” Al-Nimr’s mother said.
“This is a sin upon the whole earth. If we let this happen, humanity should hang its head in shame,” Krishnaswamy said. “Ali wants to be a lawyer when he grows up. Abdullah wants to be a nurse. These kids have stood for freedom and democracy. America is allegedly supposed to support that, and instead, it stands by and aids their oppressors.”
Krishnaswamy urges everyone to sign this petition to urge the President and the US Congress to demand that Saudi Arabia ends juvenile executions.
The United States Turning a Blind Eye
Activists have written to the entire UK parliament and the French Parliament, and several leaders in Europe.
The French President François Hollande demanded from Saudi Arabia to halt the execution in an address to the European Parliament in Brussels. UK’s Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn condemned David Cameron in front of the parliament for “supplying Saudi prisons” and demanded the release of Ali Al-Nimr.
Activists and Human Rights Organization have urged the US President to intervene and press the Saudi King to pardon the innocent boys. The Obama Administration has largely ignored the issue and turned a blind eye.
At a State Department briefing in September of 2015, the Deputy Spokesperson stated that it welcomed the news that Saudi Arabia is heading Human Rights Council; a decision that has sparked anger and international condemnation, given Saudi Arabia’s abysmal Human Rights record. When asked specifically about Ali Al-Nimr’s case, the spokesperson explained that he was not aware of the case. In a subsequent briefing, the Deputy Spokesperson said that they noted their concern about the case.
Esha Krishnaswamy and other activists in CodePink wrote to other politicians such as John Kerry, Rand Paul, Bernie Sanders, Keith Ellison, Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson, Diane Feinstein and many others.
Keith Ellison is the only politician in the United States who took an action by writing a letter to John Kerry urging the United States to intervene in the matter.
Rand Paul said he’ll research the matter further. Bernie Sanders said he would look “seriously” into the matter. The others ignored the issue altogether.
Will the United States do its part and exert whatever leverage it may have on Saudi Arabia to do the honorable thing and release the three innocent victims?