Profile in Persecution: Abdulla Mohamed AlDurazi

Abdulla Mohamed AlDurazi, an 18-year-old Saudi citizen from the Qatif region in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, was arrested without an arrest warrant while walking alone on 27 August 2014. His detention has been marred by multiple human rights violations, including torture, enforced disappearance, solitary confinement, and an unfair trial. He was sentenced to death for alleged freedom of expression-related crimes committed when he was a minor. He is currently detained in the General Directorate Investigations prison in Al-Dammam, awaiting execution, as the Saudi Supreme Court upheld his death sentence on 8 August 2022, meaning he could be executed at any time without prior notice, in a clear violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, despite the 2020 Saudi Royal Decree aiming to abolish the death penalty for child defendants. On 16 October 2023, the UN Special Rapporteur on summary, extrajudicial, or arbitrary executions, issued a press release, in which he urged “the Saudi judiciary and other institutions in Saudi Arabia to ensure that Abdullah AlDurazi’s execution is not carried out”.


On 27 August 2014, while Abdulla was walking alone in the street, Saudi security officers seized him, beat him, and arrested him without presenting an arrest warrant. After being taken to the Tarout Police Station and then Qatif Prison, he was moved to the Dammam Investigations Center six months following his arrest. Abdulla forcibly disappeared for three months and endured approximately six months of solitary confinement, during which he was subjected to physical and psychological torture. Prison officers inflicted severe burns around his eye, broke his tooth, and injured his knee while he was restrained for a long time. Because of the cruel torture he endured, he suffered a severe ear injury, and he was hospitalized, where he spent two weeks in a coma. Under this brutal torture, Abdulla was forced into signing a false confession, which he was not allowed to read, claiming his involvement with a terrorist group.


Following three years of arbitrary detention, torture, enforced disappearance, and solitary confinement, Abdulla faced trial before the Saudi Specialized Criminal Court in August 2017. During the trial, he cited the details of the torture he endured during the investigation period, which forced him into signing an already prepared written false confession that he was not allowed to read. He also made many requests for the court for his medical records to be admitted, which shows evidence of his hospitalization from the torture he endured to coerce his confession, but the court ignored them. It also denied Abdulla access to a court-appointed lawyer, which made his father, who works in the fishing sector and has no legal training, represent him at his trial before the Specialized Criminal Court, as his family could not afford to appoint a private lawyer.


Abdulla’s trial relied only on his coerced confession, as the court did not present any other evidence for his alleged involvement in the crimes of which he was accused. Additionally, all of these alleged offenses are not considered among the most serious crimes. Consequently, Abdulla was convicted of 1) participating in the formation of a terrorist cell aimed at destabilizing the internal security in the country and targeting security officers, 2) participating in demonstrations and marches, 3) attacking and destroying public property, carrying out acts of sabotage and chaos, blocking the road and seeking to cause strife and division in the country, 4) assaulting security men by throwing Molotov cocktails at them, 5) blocking the road for pedestrians by burning tires, 6) chanting anti-state slogans, and 7) participating in Ahmed AlMatar’s funeral and distributing water during it, and organizing this funeral. The court even exaggerated and fabricated charges that were not included in the investigation books and the statements extracted under torture, in which Abdulla did not mention the formation of a terrorist cell.  Even though all these crimes allegedly occurred before Abdulla turned 18, except for one crime in relation to peaceful protest-related activities that took place in May 2014, when Abdulla was 18, the Specialized Criminal Court sentenced him to death in February 2018.


Despite the 2020 Royal Decree by Saudi King Salman abolishing the death penalty for child defendants, and Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman’s statement in an interview with “The Atlantic” on 3 March 2022 that the death penalty had been abolished except for murder charges, the Court of Appeal upheld his death sentence on 8 August 2022 and rejected Abdulla’s appeal, ignoring the protection provided in the 2020 Royal Decree to minors in Saudi Arabia for discretionary offenses (ta’zir), which involve the charges brought against Abdulla. Notably, the alleged crimes were protest-related and did not involve crimes considered the most serious, such as murder. Abdulla appealed his sentence before the Saudi Supreme Court, and in October 2023, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence, meaning he could be executed at any time.


On 16 October 2023, the UN Special Rapporteur on summary, extrajudicial, or arbitrary executions, issued a press release, in which he expressed concern at the imminent execution of Abdullah AlDurazi, who was a child when he allegedly committed his crime and urged “the Saudi judiciary and other institutions in Saudi Arabia to ensure that Abdullah AlDurazi’s execution is not carried out”. He added that “the Juvenile Act does not extend to mandatory and retributive death sentences, allowing for the execution of children sentenced under the provisions of the Sharia legal system” – that is, according to the Saudi interpretation of Sharia. Accordingly, he called on Saudi Arabia “to publish the text of the 2020 Royal Decree and enforce it for all defendants below the age of 18, regardless of their crime”. Reprieve, in collaboration with other organizations, had worked on this issue, contributed to its promotion, and shed light on it, warning of the danger of Saudi Arabia carrying out Abdulla’s execution at any time.


Abdulla’s warrantless arrest, torture, enforced disappearance, solitary confinement, and unfair trial go against the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), to which Saudi Arabia is a party.  Additionally, the violations that he faced despite being a minor violate the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).


As such, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) urgently highlights the imminent threat to execute Abdulla and at least two other children in Saudi Arabia for crimes they allegedly committed as minors. ADHRB calls on the international community to take immediate action and pressure the Saudi government to revoke the death sentences imposed on all minors in Saudi Arabia. Moreover, it urges Saudi authorities to release Abdulla immediately, given the absence of a fair trial and proper legal procedures. It further demands an investigation into the allegations of torture, enforced disappearance, solitary confinement, and ill-treatment, holding the perpetrators accountable. Compensation for the violations he endured should be provided, or at the very least, a fair retrial must be granted, leading to his release.