Saudi Arabia urged to immediately halt child executions
UN human rights experts have called on the Saudi government to halt the execution of those convicted of committing crimes when they were children.
The group of independent experts were speaking out ahead of the imminent execution of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who has been convicted for a crime he allegedly committed as a child.
"We urge the Saudi authorities to establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, halt executions of persons convicted who were children at the time of the offence, and ensure a prompt and impartial investigation into all alleged acts of torture," said the human rights experts.
Al-Nimr was a 17-year-old high school student when he was arrested in 2012 by Saudi authorities, according to a UN press release.
He was detained for reportedly taking part in 'Arab Spring' protests in the eastern Saudi province of Qatif.
In May 2015 he was sentenced to death by the Specialised Criminal Court for joining a criminal gang and attacking police officers.
The General Investigation Directorate reportedly tortured and ill-treated him to force a confession.
|Mr al-Nimr did not receive a fair trial and his lawyer was not allowed to properly assist him.
- UN human rights experts
"Confessions obtained under torture are unacceptable and cannot be used as evidence before court. Any judgment imposing the death penalty upon persons who were children at the time of the offence, and their execution, are incompatible with Saudi Arabia's international obligations," said the Special Rapporteurs, recalling the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Saudi Arabia is a party.
The UN news release also reported that al-Nimr's appeal against the sentence was heard without prior notification and the proceedings fell short of international standards.
"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. 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," said the human rights experts.
The experts also called on Saudi authorities to ensure a fair retrial of al-Nimr and to immediately stop the scheduled execution.
There are two other individuals at risk of imminent execution after being arrested for taking part in protests in Qatif when they were children.
The UN reports that independent experts are "appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work".