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UN experts urge Saudi Arabia to halt executions on spying, spreading Shia faith charges

GENEVA (15 March 2018) – UN experts* have expressed concern over the imminent execution in Saudi Arabia of a man convicted of spying for Iran, financing terrorism and spreading the Shia faith, and called on the Government to annul the death sentence.

The experts also called on Saudi authorities to halt the executions of 14 others charged with spying for Iran.

Abbas Haiji A. Al-Hassan and the 14 others were sentenced in December 2016 by the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh. The death sentences were upheld by further court rulings in July and December 2017. The case of Mr. Al-Hassan was later transferred to the Presidency of State Security. His sentence is currently subject to ratification by the King.

“We are concerned that these individuals were subjected to torture during their interrogation to obtain confessions and that the death sentences may be based on evidence obtained under these conditions,” the experts said.

“We are further concerned about the physical and mental integrity of the 15 individuals following allegations of torture and about the subsequent denial of adequate medical attention by prison authorities.”

According to reports, the 15 individuals have been held in incommunicado detention for up to three months, their defence lawyers were not given access to evidence and had insufficient time to prepare their defence.

“The individuals should be retried under conditions where fair trial and due process guarantees are met,” the experts said.

Furthermore, the experts added, the death sentences were for offences that did not appear to meet the threshold of ‘most serious crimes’ as required by international law for offences carrying capital punishment.

The experts called on the Government to establish a moratorium on the death penalty, and consider its complete abolition.


*The experts: Ms Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Mr. Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Ms. Fionnuala D. Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism; Mr. Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; Mr. José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, current Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention;: Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Mr. Dainius Pūras, Special Rapporteur on the right to health

The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
For more information and media requests, please contact: Ms Maken Tzeggai (+41 22 917 9889 / mtzeggai@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact
Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383 / jlaurence@ohchr.org)

This year, 2018, is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rights: www.standup4humanrights.org.