UN demands Saudi Arabia halt death sentence against detainee who did not receive fair trial
Translation and editing by: Committee for Justice
Geneva, 18 March 2021
A group of United Nations human rights experts urged the Saudi authorities to immediately halt the death sentence issued against the Saudi citizen, Ali Hassan Al Rabie, as it was issued in a trial that did not meet fair trial standards, describing this execution – if it took place – as “arbitrary.”
Execution based on forced confessions:
In a memo sent to Saudi Arabia on January 15, 2021, experts stated that Al Rabie, born in 1979, is married and has one child. He was arrested on December 9, 2013, during a family visit to his two brothers. He had never received notice that he was wanted for investigation. He was also interrogated without the presence of his lawyer. He was subjected to torture and sleep deprivation. He was placed in solitary confinement for a period of six months and was denied contact with his family, and was forced to sign a pre-written self-incriminating statement.
The experts explained that Al Rabie was charged with participating in demonstrations, attending the funeral of his cousin, chanting anti-government slogans, possessing weapons, and participating in shooting at Al Awamiyah police station. He was referred to trial before the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh (Terrorism Court), where he informed the court that he had been repeatedly tortured, but his complaint was ignored, and his forced confession was taken as evidence, and he was sentenced to death.
In April 2019, his two brothers were executed with 35 other people after being sentenced to death following an allegedly unfair trial marred by torture allegations. Al Rabie’s execution may allegedly be carried out at any time.
An arbitrary execution:
The experts expressed their concern that the information received, if confirmed, would constitute violations of the rights to life and freedom and personal security; the right not to be arbitrarily arrested and detained; the right to be promptly charged and brought before a judge or to be released; the right not to be tortured or otherwise ill-treated; the right not to be forced to testify against oneself; the right to adequate time and assistance to prepare one’s defence; and the right to a fair trial before an independent and competent court.
The experts also stressed that when the death penalty is not legally prohibited, the death penalty may only be imposed after complying with a strict set of substantive and procedural requirements, adding: “the death penalty may only be carried out for the most serious crimes, involving intentional killing. We are concerned that Al Rabie might have allegedly been charged and may reportedly be sentenced to death for offences that do not reach this threshold”.
The experts emphasized that the imposition of the death penalty and its subsequent execution at the end of a trial was a decision that did not respect due process and fair trial standards and constituted arbitrary killing for which the state is responsible.
In their memo, the experts also warned that victims of torture and other ill-treatment should have the right to file a complaint about their treatment while in detention. An impartial examination must immediately follow any allegation in this regard by a body that is independent of the alleged perpetrator.
The experts urged the Saudi authorities to abolish the death sentence issued against Al Rabie and retry him in full compliance with international human rights law and standards. They also called on Saudi Arabia to establish an official moratorium on the death penalty and consider its complete abolition.
UN demands to the Saudi authorities:
At the conclusion of their memorandum, the experts called on the Saudi authorities to provide detailed information on the factual and legal grounds for the arrest and detention of Al Rabie, and to clarify whether he was brought promptly before a judge and was allowed to challenge the legality of his arrest and detention.
The experts also called on Saudi Arabia to clarify whether Al Rabie’s trial was conducted in a manner that is consistent with international fair trials and due process standards.
The experts also requested information on the conditions of Al Rabie detention, including the material conditions in which he was detained, and with regard to contacts with other prisoners, his family and lawyer, and how these conditions were and are consistent with the provisions of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (The Mandela Rules).
The experts called for a Saudi statement on whether the incidents of torture that took place against Al Rabie were investigated, and if not, to clarify the reason and how this is in line with the international human rights obligations of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia under the Convention Against Torture. The experts also called on Saudi authorities to provide information on the existing procedures for persons sentenced to death to seek clemency or a pardon and provide detailed information on how they can access such procedures.