Opinion

Remote dialogue about the death penalty

March 19, 2022
Nayef Al-Muala.
Nayef Al-Muala.
Nayef Al-Muala



On Saturday, March 12, 2022, the Ministry of Interior issued a statement with regard to carrying out death penalties for a number of people after they were convicted of serious terrorist crimes. Subsequently, many reactions came protesting these executions and the reactions varied in accordance with the motives of those reacted.

Some of these reactions were false and baseless allegations and claims that are intended only to offend the Kingdom, as well as its leaders and judiciary. Knowing the source of these reactions was sufficient to come to a conclusion about their invalidity as they are issued by entities and people who are known for their hostility toward the Kingdom. These people or those who push them from behind the curtain have their own political and ideological agendas. Their relationship with human rights is of transient pragmatic nature - and therefore they may not have interested in this article!

I am here addressing those who believe that the Kingdom has committed human rights violations by carrying out the death sentences of those convicts. And I want to say to them, please think carefully about the crimes that these criminals had committed and about the victims of these heinous crimes, as well as about the torment that the families of these victims continue to suffer.

Just imagine, if one of the victims, who was dear to you, paid a short visit to the Kingdom, and then was assassinated by treachery and terrorism?! What would be your position then?

These convicts killed a number of security men, and citizens, including children and women (two of them killed their mother and proceeded to kill their father and brother). They targeted and wounded a number of security men, citizens, and expatriates, and committed torture, kidnapping and rape, apart from targeting a number of police stations and security headquarters. They made bombs and explosives and planted them on the roads. They formed terrorist cells that received directions from terrorist organizations from outside the Kingdom, including Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and the Iranian-backed Houthi militias, in addition to committing other serious crimes.

If you are against the death penalty in the first place, that is your business, but it is a legal punishment that is applied in the Kingdom as well as in a number of other countries such as the United States, Japan, India, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

The international law and international human rights standards have tended to regulate the application of this punishment, rather than the explicit text of its abolition! You may refer Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the sentence that began with paragraph 2 of this article that states: “In countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime...”

If the dialogue revolves around the proper application of the penalty, we can say that the death penalty in the Kingdom is carried out only for those who are convicted of most heinous crimes, such as the crimes committed by those convicts, and that is in accordance with a legal text. Such a verdict is issued only on the basis of conclusive and substantial evidence, and by a final ruling issued by a competent court. This is after ensuring the integrity of the procedures and the availability of all legal guarantees, including the accused’s right to defend.

The death sentence becomes final only after all stages of judicial consideration are completed in accordance with the degrees of litigation stipulated by law, where the case is considered by three judges in the Court of First Instance. If a death sentence is issued, it is subject to the mandatory appeal, which will be examined by five judges in the Court of Appeal and this court may decide to reexamine the case. If this court upholds the verdict, it must be referred to the Supreme Court where five judges will examine the case. No death penalty will be carried out except after the approval of the Supreme Court. It is noteworthy that death penalties will be issued only after examining the case by at least 13 judges from courts in various levels of the judiciary.

Considering these procedures and comparing them with the guarantees stipulated in international human rights law, and the relevant international standards, including the guarantees that ensure the protection of the rights of persons facing the death sentence issued by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Resolution No. 50/1984 on 25 May, 1984, we find that the application of the death penalty in the Kingdom is fully consistent with these guarantees.

Referring to the execution of 81 people, you can imagine how many lives could be lost in one terrorist operation! This was what happened in the Kingdom as well as in many other countries in the past. How many lives will be lost if there is no security?

And hence, it can be said that the execution of death sentences against 81 people after fulfilling all the guarantees of a fair trial, was to protect 35 million people and perhaps much more than this number, if we recall the extended impact of cross-border terrorism and extremism!

— Saudi writer @NaifMoalla


March 19, 2022
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