By Michael Krieger at Liberty Blitzkrieg blog
One of the ways that the U.S. government most clearly expresses its deep dedication to global human rights, democracy and decency across the globe is via its unwavering support for the feudal, inhumane tyrannical monarchy of Saudi Arabia. A monarchy that also increasingly seems to have played a key role in the attacks of September 11, 2001.
The Saudis have received a lot of bad press as of late due to it consistently breaking its own records for beheadings, but sometimes a simple beheading isn’t sufficient. In a punishment known as “crucifixion,” the executed person’s beheaded body is placed on public display for three days. Currently facing this fate are three political activists, including two children. We learn from Reprieve.org that:
Saudi Arabia has been urged to spare the lives of two juveniles and an ageing political activist, after plans emerged to execute at least one of them this Thursday (14th).
Sheikh Nimr Baqir Al Nimr, a 53-year old critic of the Saudi regime, and two juveniles, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr and Dawoud Hussain al-Marhoon, were arrested during a 2012 crackdown on anti-government protests in the Shiite province of Qatif. After a trial marred by irregularities, Mr Al Nimr was sentenced to death by crucifixion on charges including ‘insulting the King’ and delivering religious sermons that ‘disrupt national unity’. This week, it emerged that the authorities plan to execute him on Thursday, despite protests from the UN and Saudi human rights organizations.
The planned execution of Mr Al Nimr has prompted fears for the safety of the two juveniles, who were both 17 when they were arrested and eventually sentenced to death on similar charges. Both teenagers were tortured and denied access to lawyers, and faced trials that failed to meet international standards. All three prisoners, including Mr Al Nimr, have not yet exhausted their legal appeals.
Saudi Arabia has carried out executions at an unprecedented rate since the coming to power of King Salman in 2015. On May 6th 2015, the Kingdom carried out its 79th execution of the year, and it is already close to surpassing its 2014 total of 87 executions. Human rights organization Reprieve has urged the European Union to intervene with Saudi Arabia to prevent the killings.
It isn’t clear whether or not this execution has happened. As Vox notes:
Saudi Arabia is set to behead a man and publicly display his headless body (a practice called “crucifixion” in Saudi law) — for nothing more than speaking his mind. Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, an internationally respected Shia cleric, was sentenced to death for “disobeying the ruler,” “inciting sectarian strife,” and “encouraging, leading and participating in demonstrations.” His actual crime: participating in nonviolent protests and calling for the fall of the house of Saud.
It’s not clear when the Saudis plan on executing al-Nimr: the country has a habit of both postponing executions and carrying them out without very much warning. But the case illustrates a basic fact about one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East: its system of capital punishment is one of the cruelest on earth.
Meanwhile, publicly at least, the U.S. government remains as committed to the Saudis as ever. We learn the following from National Journal:
CAMP DAVID, Md.—Of the six Arab leaders invited to the summit, one was too busy, two called in sick, and a fourth skipped it to go to a horse show instead.
The Gulf Cooperation Council conference was nevertheless “the beginning of a new era of cooperation,” President Obama declared Thursday after a daylong series of meetings.
Obama laid out five points of agreement among all the countries, top among them a commitment by the United States to respond to an “external threat” to any of the nations’ territorial integrity, which could include the use of military force, as well as the development of a ballistic-missile defense for the Gulf nations. “And let me underscore, the United States keeps our commitments,” Obama said.
The Saudi highlight reel is a long one.
Here are a few examples: