If the United States government truly stands for freedom and democracy, it must stop Saudi Arabia from carrying out this egregious violation of basic human rights. It must pressure King Salman to release all political prisoners, including Ali Mohamed al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon, and Abdullah al-Zaher, who were all minors at the time of their arrest.—a petition, “Ban Weapons Sales to Saudi Arabia Until They End Juvenile Executions”
An online friend of this website, Esha P., started a petition today to demand the United States to “Ban Weapons Sales to Saudi Arabia Until They End Juvenile Executions” via the activist website MoveOn.org. (Full disclosure: mine is the third signature on it.) I urge readers to sign it, too.
It is difficult to know how effective any one petition may be; sometimes, the simple fact that a petition is being circulated is sufficient to make the world aware that an issue is worth marching over. And sometimes a petition can do more than that. All one can do is put it out there.
The United States and Saudi Arabia are two of the 36 nations that remain with capital punishment available as an official legal remedy. Saudi Arabia is one of the few that executes its convicts in public, and it is one of the very few that executes juvenile offenders, which Ali Mohamed al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon, and Abdullah al-Zaher certainly were at the time of their arrests. This contravenes international agreements that defend the rights of children, agreements that Saudi Arabia signed.
The three were arrested for attending protests, were underage at the time of their arrests, were charged with crimes so numerous that the three of them acting together could not have committed the crimes any one of them was charged with, were tortured into signing false confessions, were not allowed to mount adequate defenses or even informed in time when their appeals would be heard, were each convicted, and were each sentenced to die.
They remain on death row. According to my sources, their families have been allowed to visit them regularly, contrary to some online rumors about their current conditions in prison. We do not know what is going to happen with them. Last autumn, British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond reported that he had been assured by his counterparts in Saudi Arabia that Ali would not be executed. So far these assurances have been proved to have merit.
The United States poisons those who have been convicted of murder, treason, or terrorism and who have been sentenced to die. Saudi Arabia uses beheading as its method of capital punishment, performs the punishment in public, and kills for crimes that most Western nations do not consider crimes: sorcery, apostasy (not believing in the correct deity), adultery. Further, Saudi Arabia has an instituted practice of crucifying the already dead body and displaying it in public. It also employs corporal punishment, something very few nations, including the United States, do not use. It flogs its citizens for reasons that include writing things its regime does not approve of.
In this country, there are still six individuals actively campaigning for the job of President of the United States. (It only seems like there are more.) A handful have spoken out about human rights in the way it is most pertinent in my country: as regards the ongoing denial of human rights, most especially for black and brown individuals, in our all too frequently abusive justice system. This is vital and important. But I well know that it is possible that not one vote will be earned by any candidate in 2016 because he or she spoke about international human rights or risked criticizing one of our “staunchest” allies, Saudi Arabia.
This is in part because our nations’ two economies are thoroughly entwined, and it is also in part because it is difficult even for those of us who are opposed to capital punishment to criticize another nation for having capital punishment, since we employ capital punishment in this nation. (Almost every Twitter troll who has criticized this web site for writing about Raif Badawi or Ali Mohammad al-Nimr has written to “encourage” me to look at my own country.)
Esha’s petition uses our entwined economies to make the human rights point: Since 2010, Saudi Arabia has cut deals to purchase more than $90 billion worth of fighter jets, missile defense systems, equipment, and expertise from American arms manufacturers. And these are the public deals. A $1.29 billion agreement to sell “air-to-ground munitions” (the four-word phrase for “bombs”) was announced in November to very little fanfare, as it is one more in a long series of such deals.
We like to keep our customers happy. Our customer was not happy about our participation in signing the international treaty with Iran in 2015. (Why do all the Republican candidates for President decry that deal? They think that they have 90 billion answers.) Our customer wants us to see the world through its own bipolar lenses, itself versus Iran and us versus Russia, and it wants our reassurances that we do.
Saudi Arabia wants us to leave it alone while it attempts to silence anyone in its nation who thinks freely and expresses it. Anyone who has the audacity to speak. It has given us 90 billion reasons, after all.
The silent faces at the top of this post—Ali Mohamed al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon, and Abdullah al-Zaher—have voices: We are their voices. We are their voices until the day they are free. That day is coming, as Philip Hammond tolsd the world in October. That is why anyone who cares about human rights must use every available tool to attract attention to these three young men, arrested while underage for attending protests, convicted of violent acts, sentenced to die, and languishing for years in Saudi Arabia’s prison system.
Please take two minutes and sign the MoveOn petition that our friend published.
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