Iranian rights chief says Riyadh must be held accountable for mass execution

March 15, 2022 - 22:31

TEHRAN – Iran’s human rights chief said on Monday that Saudi authorities must be held accountable for the latest execution of dozens of prisoners in a single day, noting that the kingdom must make clarifications on the charges leveled against those put to death.

Kazem Gharibabadi, the Judiciary chief’s deputy for international affairs and secretary of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights, said the execution of 81 men, that 41 of them were Shia Muslims, can be examined from different perspectives.

He raised questions about the judicial process under which the people were tried and sentenced to death, noting that the death penalty might have been carried out actually because of the political opposition and dissent of the defendants, Press TV reported.

Gharibabadi went on to denounce the double standards and silence of international human rights organizations vis-à-vis the recent mass execution in the Saudi kingdom.

While the institutions tend to kick up a fuss about a court ruling passed in Iran, they have questionably kept mum in the face of the execution of 81 people, the senior human rights official said.

“The double standards of human rights organizations and international bodies are very destructive. The question is: Are the so-called advocates of human rights sincere in their claims or not?” he said.

The Iranian parliament also issued a statement on Tuesday strongly condemning the mass execution in Saudi Arabia and Riyadh’s relentless attacks against the Yemeni people since 2015. 

“This regime (Saudi Arabia), which has been destroying Yemen’s infrastructures and committing the most heinous acts against its oppressed people for long years before the eyes of the international community and the self-proclaimed human rights defenders, is committing horrific murders and no protest voice is heard from the satanic throats” of the United States and its friends, the Iranian parliament said.    

The Saudi Press Agency said on Saturday that the authorities had executed 81 people in a single day on a variety of offences.

Of the 81 people, 73 were Saudi citizens, seven were Yemeni and one was a Syrian national.

The 2022 executions exceeded the total number of Saudi nationals slayed throughout last year.

 UN says defenders did not meet ‘fair trial’The kingdom’s last mass execution occurred in early January 2016, when Saudi authorities executed 47 people, including prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who had vociferously called for democracy in the kingdom and advocated anti-regime protests. Nimr had been arrested in Qatif, Eastern Province, in 2012.

Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has reportedly executed more than 900 prisoners in an increasing rate. In 2019 alone, Saudi Arabia set a record number of executions after authorities executed 184 people, despite a general decrease in the number of executions around the world.

In April 2020, Reprieve, a UK-based non-profit organization, said Saudi Arabia had carried out its 800th execution. The report added that executions had almost doubled in only five years in comparison with the 423 executions conducted in Saudi Arabia from 2009 through 2014.

Ever since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman became Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader in 2017, the kingdom has arrested dozens of activists, bloggers, intellectuals and others perceived as political opponents, showing almost zero tolerance for dissent even in the face of international condemnations of the crackdown.

Muslim scholars have been executed and women’s rights campaigners have been put behind bars and tortured as freedom of expression, association, and belief continue to be denied.

Over the past years, Riyadh has also redefined its anti-terrorism laws to target activism.

UN says mass execution in Saudi Arabia “may amount to a war crime"

slams decapitation of 81 persons in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has claimed that all those executed were murderers or aligned with terrorist groups.
Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has also condemned the recent record mass execution in Saudi Arabia, urging authorities in the ultra-conservative kingdom to completely align the country's counter-terrorism legislation with international norms.

She asked the Saudi officials in a statement to “bring the country’s counterterrorism laws fully into line with international standards.”

Bachelet stated that 41 of those executed were young men from the Qatif district of the oil-rich Shia-populated Eastern Province, who had participated in anti-regime rallies in early 2010s calling for greater political freedom. 

Seven of the executed were Yemenis and one was a Syrian national.

Saudi Arabia has increased politically motivated arrests, prosecutions, and convictions of nonviolent dissident authors and human rights activists, especially in Eastern Province.

Since February 2011, the province has been the site of nonviolent protests. Protesters have called for changes, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the region.

The protests have been met with a harsh repression, with troops beefing up security across the region.

“Our monitoring indicates that some of those executed were sentenced to death following trials that did not meet fair trial and due process guarantees, and for crimes that did not appear to meet the most serious crimes threshold, as required under international law,” Bachelet lamented.

She was especially concerned that some of the killings looked to be related to Saudi Arabia's disastrous military campaign on Yemen.

The UN rights director emphasized that handing out death sentences following trials that do not give the essential "fair trial guarantees" is illegal under international human rights and humanitarian law, and "may amount to a war crime."

She said the failure to provide family with information about the circumstances of their loved ones “may amount to torture and ill-treatment.”

“Authorities should return the bodies of those executed to their families,” Bachelet underlined.

The top UN human rights official also expressed alarm over Saudi legislation's broad definition of terrorism, saying that “this risks criminalizing people exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”

“I call on the Saudi authorities to halt all executions, immediately establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, and commute the death sentences against those on death row,” she noted.

Meanwhile, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price declined to comment on whether Washington had talked with Riyadh in the aftermath of the weekend mass execution.

“We are continuing to raise concerns about fair trial guarantees,” he said in a briefing on Monday.

“Can’t speak to the timing of that (communication) but we have raised these (human rights) concerns,” Price added.

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