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Saudi Arabia: IBAHRI condemns potential execution of teenager arrested when 13 years old

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) condemns the possible imposition of the death penalty by Saudi Arabian authorities against Murtaja Qureiris, who was just 13 years old at the time of his arrest in 2014. Now 18 years of age, Mr Qureiris has been held in detention during the intervening years on charges that include attending the funeral of his brother who was killed in a protest in 2011, joining a ‘terrorist organisation’, throwing Molotov cocktails at a police station, firing a weapon at security forces and participating in anti-government protests. Mr Qureiris maintains the demonstrations were held peacefully.

IBAHRI Co-Chair, The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG, commented: ‘The imposition of the death penalty against persons who were minors at the time the alleged offences were committed violates Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Articles 10 and 12 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights. If Saudi Arabia goes ahead with the proposal to impose the death penalty in the case of Murtaja Qureiris, it will horrify civilised countries and their people. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute calls on the Saudi authorities to renounce such punishment and to uphold the basic human rights of all, in particular the young.

Reports state that, contrary to international law and universal human rights, Saudi Arabian prosecutors sought to impose the death penalty for the charges brought against then 13-year-old Murtaja Qureiris, who was just ten when he participated in a bicycle protest in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. He has been held in detention since his arrest in 2014.

IBAHRI Co-Chair, Anne Ramberg Dr jur hc, stated: ‘It is an obvious violation of international law to have a 13-year-old child detained for so many years and now facing the death penalty. This matter is an arrogant demonstration of the Saudi Arabian authorities’ inhumane disrespect for the rule of law and the protection of human rights. The IBAHRI reiterates its 2008 Council Resolution for the abolition of the death penalty as such punishment is an infringement of the universally guaranteed right to life.’ She added: ‘The IBAHRI requests Saudi authorities drop the charges against young Mr Qureiris and urges the Kingdom to respect international and regional standards, norms of due process, basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to ensure protection of all its citizens.

Judge Kirby concluded: ‘International human rights law protects the right of peaceful protest and non-violent expression of political and social views. It is by such protest that great wrongs are ultimately corrected. The centrality of peaceful protest has been repeatedly demonstrated, particularly over the last century. Mohandas Gandhi in India and Nelson Mandela in South Africa demonstrated the importance of this right and its capacity to change their countries, and the world, for the better. It is especially important to protect children and young persons from brutal punishments for exercising this basic human right.

ENDS

Notes to the Editor

Relevant links:

  1. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (adopted 16 December 1966, entered into force 23 March 1976) Article 6:

    • 1. Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.
    • 2. In countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime and not contrary to the provisions of the present Covenant and to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This penalty can only be carried out pursuant to a final judgement rendered by a competent court.
    • 3. When deprivation of life constitutes the crime of genocide, it is understood that nothing in this article shall authorize any State Party to the present Covenant to derogate in any way from any obligation assumed under the provisions of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
    • 4. Anyone sentenced to death shall have the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence. Amnesty, pardon or commutation of the sentence of death may be granted in all cases.
    • 5. Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age and shall not be carried out on pregnant women.
    • 6. Nothing in this article shall be invoked to delay or to prevent the abolition of capital punishment by any State Party to the present Covenant.
  2. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (adopted 20 November 1989, entered into force 2 September 1990) Article 37:

    States Parties shall ensure that:

    • (a) No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age;
    • (b) No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time;
    • (c) Every child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age. In particular, every child deprived of liberty shall be separated from adults unless it is considered in the child's best interest not to do so and shall have the right to maintain contact with his or her family through correspondence and visits, save in exceptional circumstances;
    • (d) Every child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance, as well as the right to challenge the legality of the deprivation of his or her liberty before a court or other competent, independent and impartial authority, and to a prompt decision on any such action.
  3. The Arab Charter on Human Rights (adopted 15 September 1994) Articles 10 and 12:

    Article 10
    The death penalty may be imposed only for the most serious crimes and anyone sentenced to death shall have the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence.

    Article 12
    The death penalty shall not be inflicted on a person under 18 years of age, on a pregnant woman prior to her delivery or on a nursing mother within two years from the date on which she gave birth.

  4. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.

    In the ensuing 70 years since its creation, the organisation has evolved from an association comprised exclusively of bar associations and law societies to one that incorporates individual international lawyers and entire law firms. The present membership is comprised of more than 80,000 individual international lawyers from most of the world’s leading law firms and some 190 bar associations and law societies spanning more than 170 countries.

    The IBA has considerable expertise in providing assistance to the global legal community, and through its global membership, it influences the development of international law reform and helps to shape the future of the legal profession throughout the world.

    The IBA’s administrative office is in London, United Kingdom. Regional offices are located in: São Paulo, Brazil; Seoul, South Korea; and Washington DC, United States, while the International Bar Association’s International Criminal Court and International Criminal Law Programme (ICC & ICL) is managed from an office in The Hague, the Netherlands.

    The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), an autonomous and financially independent entity, works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.

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