WASHINGTON, June 6, 2014 — The Saudi Arabian government, in full view of the international community, has again abused their power and oil wealth to ensure the world would not cover what is happening in their country.
Saudi Arabia brings criminal charges against those who disagree with the government. It has always treated the 15 percent Shia Muslim population as second class citizens, ignoring their rights, yet protesting for those rights is a serious crime. The latest abuse comes with the sentencing of Shia Muslims who peacefully protested for their rights. On May 27 and 28, 2014, the Specialized Criminal Court in Saudi Arabia sentenced two Shia Muslims — 26-year-old Rida Rabih and 20-year-old Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr — to death for their involvement in protests that occurred in the eastern Saudi city of Al-Qatif in early 2011.
Shia Rights Watch considers the actions of the SCC as a violation of Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “No one shall be subjected arbitrary arrest, detention or exile”. This excessive punishment violates the rights of these protesters, and SRW is calling for these decisions to be overturned.
The two young men were peacefully exercising their right to express their discontent with a government that has consistently oppressed them over the years. The death sentences handed down by this court have no place in the 21 st century. Shia Rights Watch is also calling on the international community to stand with them to condemn 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.