Saudi Arabia: Murtaja Qureiris is facing death penalty for peacefully protesting at 13 years of age

UPDATE: 18 year-old boy Murtaja Qureiri, sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia will not face execution. Instead, the young man has been sentenced to a 12 year prison sentence. We reiterates our call upon the immediate and unconditional release of  Murtaja Qureiri. 

Murtaja Qureiris was arrested in September 2014 at 13 years of age for taking part in protests in the Eastern Province. He was subject to torture, including beatings and threats during the whole interrogating period. Since then, he has been held in pre-trial detention at the juvenile detention centre in al-Dammam city. In August 2018, he was sentenced to death. Among the charges, he has been accused of throwing Molotov cocktails against security forces and of committing offences when he was 10 years of age, namely attending the funeral of his elder brother Ali Qureiris.

International law prohibits the use of death penalty for crimes committed before the age of 18. Capital punishment represents one of the main tools in the hands of the Saudi Kingdom to crush dissentand crack down on civil society and political opposition. The main targets are foreign nationals and the Shia minority, which has been harshly persecuted starting from the aftermath of the 2011 Arab Spring.

Saudi Arabia remains one of world’s top three executioners, after China and Iran. In 2018, 149 executions have been carried out. More than 50 people who were executed were convicted for non-violent drug offences, others for the crime of rape and “treason”. Most of the executions have been performed by beheading, sometimes in public, in extreme cases convicts have faced crucifixion, which is sanctioned by Islamic law. In 2019, the situation has not improved at all. Over 100 people have already been executed.

It has been reported that many death sentences were imposed after years of arbitrary detention without meeting international fair trial standards, and that forced confessions have been extorted to death row inmates.

The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) strongly condemns this appalling practice, in a moment in which Saudi Arabia is in the spotlight, pending the final report on the investigation for the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. We reiterate our concerns over the persistent use of death penalty as a tool to crush dissent in Saudi Arabia. We call upon the Kingdom to put in place the adequate reforms to institute a moratorium on death penalty towards its total abolition.

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