Saudi Arabia: Event at European Parliament “Justice Denied: The Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia”

1 March 2017 – The panel on “Justice Denied: The Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia”, hosted by Javier Nart MEP (ALDE), discussed the shortcomings of the Saudi justice system and the need for the EU and its Member States to clearly position themselves against unfair trail and unlawful executions in Saudi Arabia.

The discussion included MEPs and representatives of the Saudi civil society and international human rights organisations:

  • Javier Nart MEP (ALDE)
  • Ana Gomes MEP (S&D)
  • Ali Adubisi (European-Saudi Organisation for Human Rights)
  • David Nichols (Amnesty International)
  • Soraya Bauwens (Reprieve)


In recent years, the execution rates in Saudi Arabia have soared, including executions for non-violent offenses, which do not meet the criteria of ‘most serious of crimes’ as prescribed by international law. One year ago, the Saudi government conducted a mass execution of 47 prisoners, including political dissidents and peaceful social justice activists. The same execution spree also saw the execution of 4 minors, some of whom were convicted based on a false confession extracted through torture. Currently, more young people who were arrested as minors are on a death row.

All speakers underlined the worsening situation with regards to minimum standards of fair trial and the danger of a regional spread of capital punishments as Kuwait and Bahrain recently broke their de facto moratoriums on death penalty.

Amnesty International’s David Nichlos pointed out the dangers in justifying cooperation between EU Member States and Saudi Arabia on the basis of counter-terrorism efforts – when at the same time the loosely defined Saudi counter-terrorism laws are used to crack down on human rights defenders. The counter-terrorism and security cooperation between the EU Member States and Saudi Arabia is all but transparent and Nichlos called on Member States to make sure that human rights safeguards are integrated into it. While speakers welcomed the clear statement by the European Parliament on the necessity to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia, they denounced the lack of such message from other EU institutions and Member States.

Soraya Bauwens from Reprieve explained the difficulty to engage with Saudi Arabia on executions and human rights as Saudi authorities continue to claim that no juveniles are being executed, while the facts clearly state the repelling truth. This point was further underlined by MEP Ana Gomes who said that her attempts to reach out and discuss human rights issues and executions have been constantly turned down by Saudi authorities.

The various shortcomings of the Saudi justice system addressed during the debate underlined the need for a more outspoken approach of the EU Member States in order to stop unlawful executions.

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