14 February 2016 marked the fourth anniversary of the arrest of Ali al-Nimr, the nephew of the recently executed Shia cleric and human rights activist Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr. The Government of Saudi Arabia arrested Ali when he was 17 years old for alleged crimes related to his exercising his freedoms of speech and assembly, such as his participation in anti-government protests. The Government has since sentenced him to death by beheading.
ARTICLE 19 joined a statement initiated by Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, signed by thirteen organisations, which condemns this decision as well as the death sentences handed down to two other activists arrested as minors, Dawood Hussein al-Marhoon and Abdullah Hasan al-Zaher.
These disproportionate sentences, combined with the recent execution of Sheikh Nimr, reflect a developing pattern of the use of the death penalty against activists in Saudi Arabia. The statement also notes that a number of Shia activists have been arrested and imprisoned in recent years, many for exercising their freedom of speech by encouraging initiatives that promote reconciliation between Sunni and Shia and for participating in protests calling for political reforms.
The statement further expresses concern surrounding the conditions of all three activists’ imprisonments, trials, and their imposed sentences, which violate Saudi Arabia’s obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
ARTICLE 19 demands that Saudi Arabia repeal the death penalty against Ali al-Nimr and all other protesters who were arrested as minors, including Dawood Hussein al-Marhoon and Abdullah Hasan al-Zaher.