Thousands mobilize to mourn the victims of Saudi Arabia’s mass execution
The OHCHR has condemned the beheadings, which included 41 Shia Muslims who had taken part in anti-government protests in 2011 and 2012
By News Desk - March 15 2022

(Photo credit: Hussein Radwan/AFP)

On the evening of 14 March thousands took to the streets in Saudi Arabia’s eastern province of Qatif to mourn the 81 victims executed by the kingdom on 12 March.

Social media users in the kingdom shared videos showing the mass demonstrations.

Saturday’s executions surpassed the total of 67 executions that reportedly took place in the kingdom across 2021.

Among those arbitrarily beheaded were 41 Shia Muslims who had taken part in protests calling for political reform in the kingdom in 2011 and 2012, including Abdallah al Zaher who was arrested at the age of 13.

The region of Qatif holds the largest concentration of Shia Muslims in Saudi Arabia, as less than 10 percent of Qatif’s population are Sunni Muslims.

Ahead of the mobilizations, Saudi authorities deployed hundreds of soldiers and police officers to the region. According to local reports, officials rounded up the relatives of the victims and forced them to make statements saying they support the executions.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet issued a press release on 14 March condemning the executions.

“Our monitoring indicates that some of those executed were sentenced to death following trials that did not meet fair trial and due process guarantees, and for crimes that did not appear to meet the most serious crimes threshold, as required under international law,” the statement by the UN official reads.

Bachelet also raised concerns about the execution of seven Yemeni nationals, who Riyadh says faced charges of supporting the Ansarallah resistance group.

“I am also concerned that some of the executions appear to be linked to the on-going armed conflict in Yemen. Implementation of death sentences following trials that do not offer the required fair trial guarantees is prohibited by international human rights and humanitarian law and may amount to a war crime.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has issued numerous reports criticizing the Saudi judicial system, noting that many of the confessions for the alleged crimes committed by detainees are often obtained through torture.

Despite judicial reforms passed in February 2021, HRW remains unconvinced about the Saudi judicial system, stating: “Saudi and international human rights groups have raised concerns that many arbitrary charges will simply be codified as wide-ranging, catch-all offenses that criminalize the rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly, among other rights.”

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