UN experts call on Saudi to halt juvenile ‘crucifixion’

September 23, 2015

Images of Ali al-Nimr

A group of UN experts have called on the government of Saudi Arabia to halt its plans to carry out the ‘crucifixion’ of a protester arrested aged 17.

In a statement, the experts – Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Juan Méndez, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and Benyam Mezmur, Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of Child – urged Saudi Arabia not execute Ali Mohammed al-Nimr.

Ali is a student who was 17 when he was arrested by the Saudi authorities amid protests in the country’s Eastern Province in 2012. Ali was tortured into signing a forced ‘confession’, which was then used to convict him in the secretive Specialized Criminal Court.

Ali’s lawyer has never been permitted to meet him in order to prepare a defence, and recently it emerged his death sentence – handed down last year – has been upheld in a secret hearing, without his knowledge. With legal avenues now exhausted, Ali could be executed at any moment, with no prior notification of his family. The punishment of ‘crucifixion’ to which he has been sentenced involves beheading and the public display of the prisoner’s body.

The UN experts said: “Any judgment imposing the death penalty upon persons who were children at the time of the offence, and their execution, are incompatible with Saudi Arabia’s international obligations”. They criticized the failings in Ali’s trial, saying that his forced statements were “unacceptable and cannot be used as evidence before court”, and that Ali “did not receive a fair trial.”

They added: “International law, accepted as binding by Saudi Arabia, provides that capital punishment may only be imposed following trials that comply with the most stringent requirements of fair trial and due process, or could otherwise be considered an arbitrary execution.

“In light of reports that the trial against Mr. al-Nimr fell short of such standards, we call upon the Saudi authorities to ensure a fair retrial of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, and to immediately halt the scheduled execution.”

Commenting, Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: “Saudi Arabia’s plans to behead and crucify a juvenile for attending a protest are nothing short of a disgrace. The international community – particularly Saudi Arabia’s close allies, the UK and the US – must stand with the rapporteurs against this outrage and call on the Saudi authorities to put a halt to this utterly unjustified and barbaric killing.”


1. For further information, please contact Reprieve: +44 (0) 207 553 8166 / donald.campbell@reprieve.org.uk

2. The Special Rapporteurs’ statement can be found here.