A woman near Manama, Bahrain, holds up a portrait of Shia leader Nimr Baqir al-Nimr in solidarity. Photograph: Mohammed Al-ShaikhSaudi Arabia
Yesterday,Sheikh NimrBaqir Al-Nimr, a prominent human rights activisthad his appeal denied and the Saudi judiciary have upheld their decision to sentence him to death. Both Sheikh Nimr’s brother and lawyer reported that Sheikh Al-Nimr’s death penalty endorsement came after both the appeal court andand the high supreme court, ratified the sentence. Al-Nimr’s case file has been sent the ministry of interior for implementation subject to the signature of the king.
This recent development in Sheikh Nimr’s case means that he is now at risk of imminent execution, as he has exhausted all legal appeals avenues and this final decision comes after a lengthy detention of over three years. Sheikh Nimr, aged 56, is a human rights activist and scholar who campaigned for peaceful and non-violent reforms within Saudi Arabia. After his violent arrest in July 2012 where he was shot four times, he was arbitrarily detained and later sentenced to death on exaggerated charges in October 2014 in a series of secret trials by Saudi’s Specialised Criminal court.
International representations to Saudi authorities to quash the unfair sentence has been on-going. UN experts have urged the Saudi authorities to ‘halt the execution of Sheikh Nimr’ after citing numerous due process concerns. Sheikh Nimr’s trial appears to be incompatible with various human rights instruments such as UDHR. Numerous NGO’s such as Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and reprieve have all called for Al-Nimr’s unfair death sentence to be halted.
This death sentence and this recent wave of death sentence endorsements signals a new and worrying trend in Saudi Arabia’s treatment of activists. News of Sheikh Al-Nimr’s death penalty ratification, comes soon after ratification of the death sentences of three young protestors, who were minors at the time of arrest, which have sparked international outcry. One of these minors, Ali Al-Nimr, is also the young nephew of Sheikh Nimr.. If Sheikh Nimr’s execution is not halted, we fear this will be the start of a dark chapter for Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. During the Arab spring hundreds of protestors were arrested and many of them are still currently undergoing trials, and the fear is that Sheikh Nimr’s death penalty endorsement will act as a precedent for the other activist.