On 3 December, the United Nations marked International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) and the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights (ESOHR) mark IDPD by condemning Saudi Arabia’s arbitrary detention, torture, and death sentence of Munir Al Adam, a prisoner suffering a disability, in the strongest terms and calling on Saudi Arabia to immediately release and drop all charges against him.
Munir Al Adam is one of almost 46 political prisoners at risk of execution in Saudi Arabia for spurious charges related to peaceful expression, assembly, association, and belief that do not meet the threshold of “most serious crimes.” Security forces arrested Munir on 8 April 2012 near Awamiyah in the Eastern Province. While in detention, officials held him in solitary confinement and tortured him, forcing him to confess to a number of crimes. As a result of the torture, Munir lost hearing in one ear. Though a doctor recommended surgery, authorities denied him the operation, causing him to become permanently deaf in that ear.
Throughout his detention, security forces denied Munir access to legal counsel. During his trial in early September 2015, Munir was charged with committing “violent acts at a protest,” although the prosecution did not present any evidence to support this other than his signed confession. He was also accused of “sending texts.” Based on these charges, the prosecution called for the death sentence, and in early June 2016 the secretive Specialized Criminal Court sentenced him to death on the basis of his confession. With his sentence upheld in late May 2017, Munir is at continuing risk of execution. ADHRB and ESOHR remain seriously concerned about Munir, because as ESOHR has documented, Saudi authorities routinely execute prisoners without warning, meaning he could be executed at any time.
In their treatment of Munir, Saudi authorities have violated numerous articles of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Torture violates Article 15(1) of the Convention, while by delaying Munir’s medical treatment the authorities have violated Articles 16, 25, and 26. In addition to violating the CRPD, Saudi Arabia has also violated Article 2(1) of the Convention Against Torture (CAT).
ADHRB and ESOHR have raised Munir’s case with the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in an effort to bring attention to his case. After bringing his case before the Committee, ADHRB and ESOHR responded to the Saudi government’s reported objections as to admissibility of Munir’s case to the complaint mechanism enshrined in the CRPD. The government has reportedly argued that Munir was properly represented during his trial – an attempt to indicate his trial was fair –and that Munir has various domestic forms of redress at his disposal. However, the courtroom presence of a defense attorney is irrelevant to Munir’s case, because Munir was not allowed to communicate with his attorney, regardless of the fact that security forces tortured him and that a confession extracted under torture was used to convict him. As a result of these flagrant abuses, regardless of the presence of a lawyer at his trial Munir was denied due process under law. Furthermore, while the authorities reportedly claim that Munir has a number of alternative methods of redress at his disposal, the institutions that he may appeal to within Saudi Arabia are either entirely ineffectual (e.g. the Human Rights Commission and the National Society for Human Rights), or are those responsible for his incarceration, death sentence, and torture.
Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB: “Saudi authorities’ treatment of Munir has violated not only the Convention Against Torture, but also the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. By flagrantly breaking its treaty obligations, Saudi Arabia demonstrates once again its disregard for human rights. Not only was Munir arbitrarily arrested, but he was tortured until he lost his hearing and then convicted on the basis of his coerced confession. Saudi Arabia must immediately release Munir and drop all charges against him.”
Ali Adubisi, Executive Director of ESOHR: “Saudi Arabia’s laws explicitly emphasize the importance of scrutinizing the evidence used in capital punishment cases. However, Munir’s case demonstrates that Saudi Arabia does not care about the veracity of evidence in execution cases, since the court admitted evidence extracted under severe torture with no regard for due process or transparency. Munir’s case also confirms that Saudi Arabia issues death sentences for charges the international community does not classify as ‘most serious crimes,’ – the international threshold for capital punishment cases.”
Saudi Arabia’s detention, torture, and imposition of the death sentence against Munir Al Adam contravene the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities, as well as the Convention Against Torture, while his imminent execution for peaceful dissent stands in contravention of the principle that the death sentence should only be imposed for the “most serious crimes.” Having acceded to the CRPD and CAT, Saudi Arabia is bound by its good-faith commitments as a treaty party to suspend implementation of the death penalty while Munir’s case is under consideration. ADHRB and ESOHR urge Saudi Arabia in the strongest terms to not only suspend implementation of Munir’s death penalty, but to release him immediately and drop all charges against him.