Summary executions


Response from the Government of Saudi Arabia dated 16 July 2007



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Response from the Government of Saudi Arabia dated 16 July 2007
1. The charges brought against the said persons, namely burglary and armed robbery, the possession of unlicensed firearms and the firing of shots at a number of persons, were substantiated by cogent and conclusive evidence of their commission of the crime, including their legally certified confessions, the medical reports, the factual report on the crime, identification of the weapons used in its commission, the report on the examination of the accused, and reports on a visit to, and inspection of, the scene of the crime.
2. Articles 155 and 182 of the Code of Criminal Procedure stipulates that court hearings should be held in public and judgements should be read out in detail at a public hearing. Article 140 of the Code further stipulates that a person accused of a major offence should appear in person before the court, without prejudice to his right to defence counsel. Accordingly, judicial proceedings are open to observers.
3. Judicial proceedings in the Kingdom are govemed by a number of regulations (laws), the most important of which are the Basic Law, the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Code of Civil Procedure, the Statutes of the Public Investigation and Prosecution Department and the Code of Practice for Lawyers. In this case, as in others, the judicial procedures were strictly observed with meticulous care in all their formal and legal aspects and were conducted in accordance with the above-mentioned regulations.
4. Death sentences are handed down by the general courts in cases entailing the fixed penalties prescribed in the Islamic Shari'a and in cases of lex talionis and crimes involving repeated offences of drug smuggling and trafficking.
Saudi Arabia: Death Sentence of Suliamon Olyfemi
Violation alleged: Non-respect of international standards relating to the imposition of capital punishment
Subject(s) of appeal: 1 male
Character of reply: No response
Observations of the Special Rapporteur
The Special Rapporteur regrets that the Government of Saudi Arabia has failed to cooperate with the mandate that he has been given by the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council.
Urgent Appeal dated 20 April 2007 sent with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers and Special Rapporteur on the question of torture
We would like to draw the attention of your Government to information we have received regarding the case of Mr. Suliamon Olyfemi, a citizen of Nigeria, who is reportedly at imminent risk of execution. The case of Suliamon Olyfemi was previously brought to the attention of your Excellency’s Government (together with the cases of 12 other Nigerian migrant workers) by the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers and the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture in a communication dated 30 November 2004. Regrettably, their communication has remained without reply.
According to the communication of 30 November 2004, Suliamon Olyfemi and 12 other Nigerian migrant workers resident in Jeddah,
“[…] were among hundreds detained in Jeddah on 29 September 2002 after a policeman was killed in a fight between local men and African nationals. All the other men arrested on that occasion have been deported, including 21 who served prison sentences ranging from six months to two years and flogging.
Subsequent to their arrest, the 13 Nigerian nationals were tortured and ill-treated, including being hung upside down and beaten and subjected to electric shocks to the genitals. Since their arrest over two years ago, the men have not had access to a lawyer or consular assistance. Moreover, translators were present on only two of the four previous court appearances, and all proceedings and court documents are in Arabic.
On 22 November 2004, a hearing in the case of the 13 men took place before three judges in a closed session, without the assistance of a lawyer, a consular representative or adequate translation facilities. They could not fully understand the proceedings, which were conducted in Arabic, and were not able to fully understand whether the hearing concerned the prolongation of their detention or constituted their trial.”
According to information received since then:
Suliamon Olyfemi was sentenced to death at a closed trial in May 2005. The twelve other Nigerian men were sentenced to prison terms and corporal punishment. During the trial, Suliamon Olyfemi and his co-defendants neither had access to legal representation nor to consular assistance, nor did they benefit from adequate translation. During interrogation they had been told to put their fingerprints, which can act as a signature, on statements written in Arabic, which they do not read. It is possible that these statements were used as evidence against them during the trial proceedings. Staff from the Nigerian consulate in Jeddah attempted to visit the men in prison on 19 May 2005, but were not allowed to see them. The death sentence imposed on Suliamon Olyfemi has recently been upheld by the Court of Cassation and ratified by the Supreme Judicial Council.
While we do not wish to prejudge the accuracy of the allegations reported above, we respectfully remind your Excellency that in capital punishment cases the obligation to provide criminal defendants “a fair and public hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal” (Article 10 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights) allows no derogation. A central element of the right to a fair hearing is the right to be assisted by legal counsel. In this respect, we would also like to refer Your Excellency's Government to the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Havana, Cuba, 27 August to 7 September 1990, in particular Principle 1, which reads: “All persons are entitled to call upon the assistance of a lawyer of their choice to protect and establish their rights and to defend them in all stages of criminal proceedings” and principle 5; “Governments shall ensure that all persons are immediately informed by the competent authority of their right to be assisted by a lawyer of their own choice upon arrest or detention or when charged with a criminal offence.”
The right to a fair hearing also requires that defendants be given information on the proceedings in which their culpability and sentence will be determined as further stated in the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers: “It is the duty of the competent authorities to ensure lawyers access to appropriate information, files and documents in their possession or control in sufficient time to enable lawyers to provide effective legal assistance to their clients. Such access should be provided at the earliest appropriate time.” (Principle 21).
We would also like to remind your Government that article 15 of the Convention against Torture provides that, “[e]ach State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.” Furthermore, in paragraph 4 of Resolution 2005/39, the Commission on Human Rights urges States ensure that statements which are established to have been made as a result of torture are not admitted as evidence.
As for the right to a “public hearing”, while courts may exclude the public from all or part of a trial where publicity would imperil national security or other legitimate interests (e.g. the privacy rights of a minor), the judgment rendered in a criminal case must be made public, allowing only the narrowest of exceptions which clearly find no application in the case at issue.
In this respect, it should be noted that secrecy surrounding trial, sentence and post-conviction proceedings also makes the effective exercise of the right to appeal the sentence and to seek its commutation impossible. Considering the irrevocable nature of capital punishment, these rights are all the more fundamental. Only the full respect for stringent due process guarantees distinguishes capital punishment as still allowed under international law from a summary execution, which violates the most fundamental human right.
We urge your Excellency’s Government to take all necessary measures to guarantee that the rights under international law of Suliamon Olyfemi are respected. Considering the irremediable nature of capital punishment, this can only mean suspension of the execution until the complaints regarding his right to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law have been thoroughly investigated and all doubts in this respect dispelled.
It is our responsibility under the mandate provided to us by the Commission on Human Rights and reinforced by the appropriate resolutions of the General Assembly, to seek to clarify all cases brought to our attention. Since we are expected to report on these cases to the Human Rights Council, we would be grateful for your cooperation and your observations on the following matters:
1. Are the facts alleged in the above summary of the case accurate? In particular, is it accurate that Suliamon Olyfemi was not assisted by lawyers at any stage of the proceedings? Is it accurate that he was asked to sign documents in Arabic without being provided a (written) translation? What use was made of these documents? Is it accurate that Nigerian consular authorities were denied access to Suliamon Olyfemi? At what stage did he receive a copy of the judgment in his case? Was the judgment translated into a language he can understand?
2. Were the proceedings in this case in accordance with the laws of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia?
3. We would finally like to reiterate the request by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers in communications to your Excellency’s Government of 24 January 2007 and 5 April 2007 for clarification of which offences carry the death penalty in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which courts can impose it, and what percentage of those sentenced to death and executed are foreigners. We have received reports according to which in 2005 out of 86 executions known to have taken place in Saudi Arabia 39 concerned foreigners, in the year 2006 27 out of 39, and in 2007 (to date) 15 out of 34 executions concerned foreigners. If these figures were correct, more than 50 percent of those executed would be foreigners. Can your Government confirm or correct these statistics?
Saudi Arabia: Death Sentence of Dhahian Rakan al-Sibai’i
Violation alleged: Non-respect of international standards relating to the imposition of capital punishment
Subject(s) of appeal: 1 male (juvenile offender)
Character of reply: No response
Observations of the Special Rapporteur
The Special Rapporteur regrets that the Government of Saudi Arabia has failed to cooperate with the mandate that he has been given by the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council.
Urgent appeal dated 25 May 2007 sent with the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture
We would like to draw the attention of your Government to information we have received regarding Dhahian Rakan al-Sibai’i, who was reportedly sentenced to death for a crime committed when he was still a minor. According to the information received:
Both the murder attributed to Dhahian Rakan al-Sibai’i and his trial took place while he was under 18 years of age. He was held in a juvenile detention facility until he was 18 years old, when he was moved to al-Taif Prison. The Pardon and Reconciliation Committee is reportedly facilitating negotiations with the victim’s family to obtain a pardon without compensation or against payment of blood money. Moreover, reports indicate that the death sentence still needs to be ratified by the Supreme Judicial Council.
While we do not wish to prejudge the accuracy of the allegations regarding this specific case, we would like to draw your attention to the fact that the execution of Dhahian Rakan al-Sibai’i would violate international legal obligations of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In particular, the execution would be explicitly contrary to Article 37(a) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which provides that capital punishment shall not be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age. Saudi Arabia is a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and is thus bound by this provision.
On this basis, we urge your Excellency’s Government to expeditiously set aside the death sentence imposed on Dhahian Rakan al-Sibai’i. While we appreciate your Government’s reported efforts to facilitate a pardon from the victim’s family, such efforts do not satisfy your Government’s obligations under international law considering the clear ban on the use of the death penalty against child offenders in Article 37(a) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
It is our responsibility under the mandates provided to us by the Commission on Human Rights and extended by the Human Rights Council, to seek to clarify all cases brought to our attention. Since we are expected to report on these cases to the Human Rights Council, we would be grateful for your cooperation and your observations on the following matters:
1. Are the facts alleged above accurate? If not, please provide information and documents proving their inaccuracy.
2. If the above facts are accurate, please provide details of any further developments in this case.
Given the urgency of the matter, we would appreciate an expeditious response on the initial steps taken by your Excellency’s Government to safeguard the rights of Dhahian Rakan al-Sibai’i.
Saudi Arabia: Death Sentence of Rizana Nasik
Violation alleged: Non-respect of international standards relating to the imposition of capital punishment
Subject(s) of appeal: 1 female (juvenile offender)
Character of reply: Largely satisfactory response
Observations of the Special Rapporteur
The Special Rapporteur appreciates the information provided by the Government of Saudi Arabia regarding the death sentence of Rizana Nasik. The SR would request that he be informed of the decision of the Court of Cassation and, if applicable, of the Supreme Council of the Judiciary.
The SR would also note that imposing capital punishment for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age violates the legal obligations Saudi Arabia assumed when it acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 26 January 1996. The application of “regulations . . . stipulate[ing] that a person can be held criminally responsible for acts that he commits after reaching the age of majority, which differs from one individual to another” is inconsistent with that treaty.
Urgent Appeal dated 28 June 2007
I would like to draw the attention of your Government to information I have received regarding Ms. Rizana Nasik, who was reportedly sentenced to death for a crime committed when she was still a minor.
According to the information received:
Rizana Nasik is a Sri Lankan migrant worker in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. On 30 May 2007, the Daw Admi High Courts reportedly found her guilty of having strangled the 4-month-old child of the family for whom she had worked as a housemaid and sentenced her to death. The murder reportedly took place in February 2005 when Rizana Nasik was only 17 years old. It would appear that she had falsified her birth date on her passport in order to enter Saudi Arabia to work.
It is alleged that Rizana Nasik could not afford the assistance of a lawyer during her trial and was not provided with legal aid by the authorities. The 30-day deadline to appeal her judgment and sentence reportedly expires on 30 June 2007.
While I do not wish to prejudge the accuracy of the allegations regarding this specific case, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the execution of Rizana Nasik would violate international legal obligations of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In particular, unless the doubts regarding her age at the time of the crime can be dispelled, the execution would be explicitly contrary to Article 37(a) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which provides that capital punishment shall not be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age. Saudi Arabia is a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and is thus bound by this provision.
Moreover, I respectfully remind your Excellency that in capital punishment cases the obligation to provide criminal defendants “a fair and public hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal” (Article 10 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights) allows no derogation. A central element of the right to a fair hearing is the right to be assisted by legal counsel. In this respect, I would also like to refer Your Excellency's Government to the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Havana, Cuba, 27 August to 7 September 1990. Principle 6 is particularly pertinent to the present case: “Any such persons [charged with a criminal offence] who do not have a lawyer shall, in all cases in which the interests of justice so require, be entitled to have a lawyer of experience and competence commensurate with the nature of the offence assigned to them in order to provide effective legal assistance, without payment by them if they lack sufficient means to pay for such services.”
On this basis, I urge your Excellency’s Government to expeditiously set aside the death sentence imposed on Rizana Nasik and provide her with effective legal counsel in view of a renewed trial, free of charge if she lacks means of her own. I would also urge your Excellency’s Government to seek the cooperation of the Government of Sri Lanka in order to clarify the question of her age at the time of the crime.
It is my responsibility under the mandate provided to me by the Commission on Human Rights and extended by the Human Rights Council, to seek to clarify all cases brought to my attention. Since I am expected to report on these cases to the Human Rights Council, I would be grateful for your cooperation and your observations on the following matters:
1. Are the facts alleged above accurate? If not, please provide information and documents proving their inaccuracy.
2. If the above facts are accurate, please provide details of any further developments in this case.
Given the urgency of the matter, I would appreciate an expeditious response on the initial steps taken by your Excellency’s Government to safeguard the rights of Rizana Nasik.
Response from the Government of Saudi Arabia dated 21 January 2008
In this regard, the competent authorities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have indicated that the above-mentioned woman was accused of killing the child, Kayed bin Nayef Al-Utaibi, whose heirs petitioned the competent court for application of the penalty of lex talionis, in conformity with the provisions of the Islamic Shari'a, which is the law in force in the Kingdom. In accordance with the Code of Criminal Procedure, cases of this type are heard by three judges in the general courts, after which they are referred to the Court of Cassation for review by five judges. Even if the judgement is upheld by the Court of Cassation, it does not become final until it has been ratified by the plenary body of the Supreme Council of the Judiciary, consisting of five judges. With regard to the woman's young age (17 years) at the time of commission of the crime, the regulations applied in the Kingdom stipulate that a person can be held criminally responsible for acts that he commits after reaching the age of majority, which differs from one individual to another and might exceed 18 years. With regard to the above-mentioned woman's petition for commutation of her sentence, the judgement handed down against her has not become final since it has not yet been ratified by the Court of Cassation or the Supreme Council of the Judiciary. In fact, the judgement is still being deliberated between the Court of Cassation and the court by which it was handed down. Hence, this case is still under consideration by the judiciary.
Saudi Arabia: Death Sentence of Faisal Fouzan al-Otaibi
Violation alleged: Non-respect of international standards relating to the imposition of capital punishment
Subject(s) of appeal: 1 male
Character of reply: No response
Observations of the Special Rapporteur
The Special Rapporteur regrets that the Government of Saudi Arabia has failed to cooperate with the mandate that he has been given by the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council.
Urgent appeal dated 9 July 2007
I am writing concerning Faisal Fouzan al-Otaibi who has been sentenced to death and is at risk of execution. According to information I have received:
Mr al-Otaibi was convicted of the offence of negligent manslaughter after causing a fatal road accident resulting in the 2005 deaths of three men and leaving two others injured. The accident reportedly occurred when he performed a high speed manoeuvre in his car. It is my understanding that his appeal was referred to the Court of Cassation on 24 June, 2007, after which ratification by the Supreme Judicial Council would be required.
Although the death penalty is not prohibited under international law, it has long been regarded as an extreme exception to the fundamental right to life, and must as such be interpreted in the most restrictive manner. Article 6(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides that the “sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes”.
It is my view that the death penalty as applied in this case does not fall within the category of the “most serious crimes” for which international law countenances its possible application. It is generally understood that this category should not be defined as going beyond intentional crimes with lethal or extremely grave consequences (paragraph 1 of the Safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, Economic and Social Council resolution 1984/50 of 25 May 1084). In interpreting Article 6(2) of the Covenant, however, the Human Rights Committee (HRC) has consistently rejected the imposition of a death sentence for offences that do not result in the loss of life, finding only cases involving murder not to raise concerns under the most serious crimes provision. As I observed in my last report to the Human Rights Council, the conclusion to be drawn from a thorough and systematic review of the jurisprudence of all of the principal United Nations bodies charged with interpreting the most serious crimes provision, is that a death sentence can only be imposed in cases where it can be shown that there was an intention to kill which resulted in the loss of life (A/HRC/4/20, para. 53). I would note that whilst the offence for which Mr al-Otaibi has been convicted had lethal consequences, no intention to kill has been proven.
In light of this review of basic human rights norms recognized by the international community, I would respectfully request Your Excellency’s Government to take all necessary steps to avoid executions that would be inconsistent with accepted standards of international human rights law.
Saudi Arabia: Death Sentence of Hadi ‘Ali Suliaman al-Yami
Violation alleged: Non-respect of international standards relating to the imposition of capital punishment


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