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The IBA’s response to the war in Ukraine
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.’
Notes to the Editor
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (adopted 16 December 1966, entered into force 23 March 1976) Article 6:
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:
The Arab Charter on Human Rights (adopted 15 September 1994) Articles 10 and 12:
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.
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.
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