UK NGO appeals to UN to help halt Saudi cleric’s execution
The London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has written again to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights urging intervention to help stop the execution of imprisoned Saudi scholar Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr.
Saudi Arabia’s Okaz newspaper reported last week that 55 people were awaiting execution for ‘terrorist crimes’ that killed more than 100 civilians and 71 security personnel.
On 23 November, the semi-official newspaper al Riyadh reported that 52 people would be put to death soon, but later pulled the story from its website without explanation.
The sheikh’s fate now lies in the hands of the Saudi ruler, King Salman, who can exercise his right of clemency, the NGO said, adding that Sheikh Nimr is one of many victims of the government’s crackdown on all opposition to its authoritarian regime.
IHRC’s research from 2011 (the beginning of the demonstrations in the Shi’a majority Eastern Province) indicates that there are an estimated 30,000 political prisoners in Saudi Arabia out of a population of approximately 18 million Saudi nationals.
Whilst the 30,000 political prisoners are drawn from different sections of Saudi society, the government uses the arrest of personalities like Sheikh Nimr to sectarianise opposition to the regime.
Sheikh al-Nimr has been active in demanding more liberty, constitutional changes and an end to sectarian discrimination in the country. His arrest, detention and planned execution are set against the backdrop of the increasing violence and authoritarianism of the Saudi state that seeks to marginalize and abuse minority groups in particular.
The fact that Saudi Arabia seems to be going ahead with multiple executions in defiance of a consensus amongst international human rights organizations that many of them rest on unsafe verdicts, is something that should lead the UN to reconsider Saudi Arabia’s position on the UN Human Rights Council, IHRC urged.