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Saudi Arabia: UN calls for a halt to the executions of two citizens after an unfair trial

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News briefing

Translated and edited by: Committee for Justice

Geneva: 28 April 2022

UN experts have called for a moratorium on two executions against two Saudi Arabian citizens, namely; Asaad Makki Shuber and Aqil bin Hassan al-Faraj, who are reported to face the death penalty after being allegedly arbitrarily arrested, and after an unfair trial marred by allegations of torture to coerce confessions to crimes.

The case of Asaad Makki Shubr

The experts stated in a memorandum sent to the Saudi authorities on February 25, 2022, that on April 28, 2017, Asaad Makki Shubbar, a member of the Shiite minority, was arrested in Asir Governorate, without an arrest warrant, held for more than two years without trial, and subjected to solitary confinement. He is also alleged to have been subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and to have been forced to sign confessions.

The experts added that in May 2019, the Specialized Criminal Court (Terrorism Court in Riyadh) charged him with terrorism-related charges under a number of legal provisions, including the Anti-Terrorism and Financing Crimes Law. In January 2021, he was sentenced to death, and the Specialized Appeal Court upheld the sentence in July 2021. The Supreme Court on February 12, 2022, confirmed his death sentence, and it is feared that he will now be executed at any time.

The case of Aqil bin Hassan Al-Faraj

Regarding the Aqil Al-Farraj case, the experts explained that on December 25, 2013, he was arrested at a checkpoint in the Al-Nasra neighborhood in Qatif, Saudi Arabia, while driving a vehicle whose chassis number was allegedly changed. Al-Faraj was reportedly held in solitary confinement for approximately two and a half months, during which he was allegedly tortured.

The experts stated that nearly five years after his arrest, Al-Faraj appeared before the Specialized Criminal Court on charges of participating in the establishment of a terrorist cell affiliated with a secret armed organization with the aim of armed rebellion, destabilizing internal security, the killing of members of the security forces and incitement to demonstrate, and smuggling of weapons. On an unspecified date, Al-Faraj was sentenced to death, which was then upheld by the Court of Appeal on June 1, 2021, and is now awaiting final confirmation by the Supreme Court, amid fears that it could be imposed any time in the very near future.

Calls for the abolition of death sentences

The experts called on the Saudi authorities to immediately stop any step that may be considered or taken at the present time towards the execution of Shubbar and Al-Faraj, which would constitute arbitrary executions, and ensure that they are retried in accordance with international law and standards expeditiously, reiterating their call for Saudi Arabia to consider imposing an official moratorium on all executions as a first step.

International demands from the Saudi authorities

The experts called on the Saudi authorities to provide any information regarding the allegations mentioned in the memorandum, in particular regarding steps taken or envisaged to be taken, towards the possible abolition of the death penalty for children for all crimes.

The experts also asked Saudi Arabia to provide information on the current procedures for people sentenced to death to request pardon, with detailed information on how Shubbar accessed these procedures.

The experts also called on the authorities in Saudi Arabia to clarify whether the arrest and subsequent detention of Al-Faraj complied with international human rights law and standards, clarifying whether his trial was conducted in a manner consistent with international legal process and fair trial rules and standards, and providing information on whether any investigation into allegations of torture was conducted.

The experts also requested that information be provided on Al-Faraj’s current conditions of detention, including with regard to whether he can contact his family and lawyer.

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