MEPs blast Saudi Arabia government over planned execution of juvenile offender

MEPs join growing international campaign to prevent execution of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr

By William Louch

29 Sep 2015

MEPs have called in the strongest terms for the Saudi government to suspend the death sentence passed on Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who could be executed at any time following his conviction for his involvement in pro-democracy demonstrations during the Arab Spring in 2012. Under the terms of the conviction, al-Nimr will be beheaded then crucified.

Al-Nimr, who was a child at the time the offences were committed, was sentenced to death in May 2015 for, amongst other things, joining a criminal group and attacking police forces.

Charles Tannock, a member of the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee (AFET), openly condemned the Saudi government.


Speaking to the Parliament Magazine, Tannock said, "not only was he a minor at the time of the protests but he has not done anything in criminal terms to deserve such a terrible and irreversible punishment."

David Martin, a member of the European Parliament's subcommittee on human rights, also condemned the decision, "barbarically crucifying and beheading a young man who was a minor at the time of the event, is simply unacceptable and indefensible. I condemn in the strongest terms this sentence and call on King Salman to annul it immediately."

The criticism comes a day after Mohammed bin Amin Al-Jefri, Deputy Speaker of the Majlis Al-Shura, the Consultative Assembly of Saudi Arabia, addressed the AFET committee.  

During the exchange of views, Al-Jefri said, "relations between EU and Saudi Arabia are extremely important," before thanking the EU for accepting EU refugees as, "it reflects respect for human rights."

Al-Nimr's case poses difficult questions over EU-Saudi relations, with Riyadh a key strategic partner of the EU in the Middle East.

Tannock highlighted this point, saying the execution will, "serve to illustrate the appalling level of barbarity existing in a country that calls itself our ally and partner in fighting international terrorism and its barbarities."

Marietje Schaake, substitute member of the AFET committee, reiterated this view saying, "the EU has prioritised strategic objectives in its relationship with Saudi Arabia for too long."

She also called on the EU to, "reassess its relationship with Saudi Arabia" and to, "weigh respect for human rights much more heavily."

The calls from MEPs come as part of a widespread international movement to ask the Saudi King to show Al-Nimr clemency.

Support for the protester has come from a variety of sources.

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the UK Labour Party, has made a personal call to UK Prime minister, David Cameron, to raise the case of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr with the Saudi government.

Corbyn said today, "to David Cameron I say intervene personally with the Saudi regime to stop the beheading and crucifixion of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr."

The ‘‘hacktivist’’ network ‘Anonymous’ has posted a series of messages on Facebook and Twitter announcing, "an innocent young teenage boy has been sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia and we will not stand by and watch."

The case is the latest in a string of alleged abuses of human rights in Saudi Arabia. The UN's recent decision to appoint Saudi Arabia to chair a key human rights panel prompted much criticism, with Schaake saying the appointment of the Saudi Ambassador was "troubling," as the country is a "systematic human rights violator."

David Martin went further saying, "it is outrageous that only days ago Saudi Arabia became the Chair of a UN human rights panel.  It's damning record on human rights, particularly the death penalty are there for everyone to see."

Independent experts from the United Nations Human Rights council have condemned the attacks, calling on Saudi authorities, "to ensure a fair trial and to immediately halt the scheduled execution."

Saudi Arabia is described as having "one of the worst records in the world" when it comes to its treatment of women, dissidents and minorities.

A recent report by NGO and leading human rights campaigner, Human Rights Watch, claims Saudi Arabia continues to, "try, convict, and imprison political dissidents and human rights activists solely on account of their peaceful activities."

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