UNHRC member Saudi Arabia to execute pro-democracy cleric

October 26, 2015  

Saudi Arabia, which holds a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, is set to execute a Shiite cleric who called for pro-democracy protests in the country, Reuters reports Sunday.

According to the news agency, Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court has rejected an appeal against the death sentence passed this year on Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, who was arrested in 2012.

Nimr’s brother, Mohammed al-Nimr, told Reuters that the sentence had been upheld after hearings that took place without his lawyers or family members being given prior notice.

His life now hangs on the possibility of a pardon from King Salman.

Nimr and six other Saudi Shiites, including his nephew, Mohammed al-Nimr’s son Ali, have been sentenced to die and then have their bodies publicly displayed in the most severe penalty available to judges in the strict Sunni majority kingdom.

“We don’t want anything to happen to him or to Ali or the other young men,” Mohammed al-Nimr told Reuters on Sunday. Political analysts who follow Saudi Shiite politics have warned that widespread protests may erupt if the executions are carried out.

More than 20 Shiites were killed in protests between 2011 and 2013 in the Shiite district of Qatif, with three of them killed in protests in the two days after Nimr’s arrest.

While Nimr was careful to avoid calling for violence, according to Reuters, Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry still accused him of being behind attacks on police alongside a group of other suspects it said were working on behalf of the kingdom’s main regional rival, Shiite Iran.

Saudi Arabia is notorious for its violations of human rights and specifically those of women, employing a religious police whose job is to enforce Islamic Sharia law.

One of the most notorious practices in Saudi Arabia is the ban on women driving, which has been targeted by a long-standing campaign which has urged women to defy the ban

Yet despite its violation of human rights, Saudi Arabia recently has a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, being one of several countries with questionable human rights records to win seats in this body.

Saudi Arabia’s envoy to the UNHRC was in September selected to head an influential panel on human rights, despite Riyadh’s own poor track record for human rights issues.

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