Once again the Saudi Arabian government, in front of the blind eyes of the international community has abused its power and oil wealth to ensure the world would not cover what is happening in their country.
Saudi Arabia, has again demonstrated its apathy toward human rights reform, this time by sentencing to death Shia Muslims who participated in a peaceful protest against religious-based inequality. Saudi Arabia has a long track record of arresting political dissidents and convicting them on spurious charges. On May 27, 2014 and May 28, 2014, the Specialized Criminal Court in Saudi Arabia convicted two young adult Shia Muslims under false charges. Saudi Arabia has consistently treated the 15 percent of its population that is Shia Muslim as second-class citizens, ignoring their rights. For this reason, Shia Muslims of Saudi Arabia continue to petition their government for equality. The Saudi government responds by disproportionately targeting Shia communities and Shia rights activists with arbitrary arrests and spurious convictions. This time the victims of this inhumane treatment where 26 year old Rida Rabih and 20 year old Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr who were sentenced to death on May 27th and May 28th respectively for their involvement in protests that occurred in the eastern Saudi city of Al-Qatif in early 2011. The message the Saudi government is sending to would-be activists and protestors through these arrests, convictions and sentences is perfectly clear. Peaceful protest and freedom of expression will not be tolerated in Saudi Arabia.
Shia Rights Watch views the actions of the SCC as a violation of Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states “No one shall be subjected arbitrary arrest, detention or exile”. The arbitrary arrest, spurious conviction and excessive punishment violate the rights of these protestors and SRW is calling for these decisions to be overturned. The protesters were exercising their right to express their discontent with a government that has consistently oppressed them over recent years. The death sentences handed down by this court have no place in the 21st century. Shia Rights Watch also calls on the international community to stand with them in condemning these actions.
Shia Muslims are the largest minority group in Saudi Arabia, composing between 15 and 20 percent of the population. Most of the Shia in Saudi Arabia live in the eastern provinces of the country especially around the urban areas of Al-Qatif and Hasa. Shia Muslims have faced widespread repression and discrimination by the ruling government. The uprisings that occurred in 2011 resulted in the arrests of over 900 people, with 300 remaining in jail today.