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  • Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

    Riyadh, Saudi Arabia | Photo: wikimedia

Published 30 October 2018

The six men were all under 18 when they were charged with activities related to the Arab Spring. International law forbids the death penalty for minors.

Human rights experts with the United Nation urge Saudi Arabia to stop the imminent executions of six men sentenced to death in relation to activities during the 2011 Arab Spring.

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The men, all Saudis, were under the age of 18 at the time. The U.N. experts say imposing the death penalty would be a violation of international law.

The charges against the men are based on "criminalization of the exercise of fundamental rights, including freedom of assembly and expression," the experts said in a joint statement.

"They were allegedly tortured and ill-treated, forced to confess, denied adequate legal assistance during trial and never had access to an effective complaint mechanism," the experts, including  U.N. investigator on arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard said.

Saudi Arabia’s human rights record has been under scrutiny since Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi Embassy in Istanbul, Turkey.

The country has also been facing increasing international criticism of the Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen, which have caused severe amounts of civilian casualties including children.

The men, Ali al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon, Abdullah al-Zaher, Mujtaba al-Sweikat, Salman Qureish and Abdulkarim al-Hawaj, were tried in a court that handles terrorism-related issues. There is no known appeals process, a U.N. human rights official told Reuters.

The five independent experts said they were in contact with Saudi authorities regarding the men’s cases. A source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that his understanding was that the men would not be executed, in line with recent changes to Saudi law.

However, the U.N. experts have said that the revised law still allows the death penalty on defendants who committed crimes while as young as 15 years old.

Death penalty sentences and executions for crimes committed by people under the age of 18 contradict international law and standards, they said.

Saudi Arabia ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which forbids capital punishment in such cases. "In these circumstances, the execution of these six individuals would constitute arbitrary executions," the experts said.

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