April 25 (UPI) — United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet strongly condemned Wednesday the beheading of 37 Saudi men in spite of repeated protests from the international community.
“I strongly condemn these shocking mass executions across six cities in Saudi Arabia yesterday in spite of grave concerns raised about these cases by numerous U.N. special rapporteurs, the U.N. Committee on Rights of the Child and others,” Bachelet said in a statement.
On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia said it had beheaded 37 men in six separate executions throughout the kingdom on terrorism-related charges.
A statement from the Ministry of the Interior published by the Saudi Press Agency listed the names of men while stating they were sentenced to death for adopting extremist ideology and forming “terrorist cells to corrupt and disturb security, damage peace and social security and attack security headquarters using explosive bombs.”
According to Amnesty International, the majority of those executed by the Sunni Muslim Kingdom were minority Shiite Muslims and were convicted “after sham trials that violated international fair trial standards, which relied on confessions extracted through torture.”
The international human rights watchdog said 11 men were convicted of spying for Iran while 14 others were sentenced to death for having participated in anti-government protests in Saudi Arabia’s Shi’a majority Eastern Province between 2011 and 2014.
At least 14 men subjected to prolonged pre-trial detention told the court they had been tortured and ill-treated during interrogations.
At least three of the people executed were minors when sentenced, which is in violation of international law that prohibits the death penalty to be used against anyone under the age of 18.
“It is particularly abhorrent that at least three of those killed were minors at the time of their sentencing,” she said. “I urge the government of Saudi Arabia to immediately launch a review of its counter-terrorism legislation and amend the law to expressly prohibit the imposition of the death penalty against minors.”
Bachelet also requested that it halt proceedings of those on death row whose cases have been taken up by the U.N. human rights system while reminding the kingdom it must live up to its obligations to respect international human rights law.
“I appeal to the authorities to halt the pending executions and to engage constructively with the U.N. Human Rights Office and independent experts on the many concerns related to the imposition of the death penalty in the country,” she said.
A day earlier, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director, Lynn Maalouf, called the executions “a chilling demonstration of the Saudi Arabian authorities callous disregard for human life.”
So far in 2019, Saudi Arabia has executed 104 people, 44 of whom were foreign nationals, according to the human rights watchdog.