Ankit Sharma Sharma
Green tea Addict | A Tree Hugger | Born for Change
Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor is asking for the death penalty for Israa al-Ghumgham, a female human rights activist. This is the first time a female campaigner may face execution in the country. She along with her husband are among the five human rights activists facing execution for their peaceful protests, Human Rights Watch reports.
Israa al-Ghumgham along with her husband Moussa al-Hashem was arrested in 2015 and has been in jail ever since without any access to proper legal help. Both of them are waiting to be tried in Saudi Arabia’s terrorism tribunal.
According to The Guardian the Shia citizens have been facing discrimination in the employment and education sectors in Saudi Arabia, which is a Sunni-majority nation. Isra joined her husband and others in mass protests against the discrimination and rights violations in 2011, documenting the public demonstrations and using social media for the protests.
Arab Charter on Human Rights, which Saudi Arabia upholds, clearly states that death penalty should be used only for the most serious of crimes and in exceptional circumstances. The public prosecution which directly reports to the King, is asking for death penalty for these activists who have been charged with “participating in protests in the Qatif region”, “incitement to protest”, “chanting slogans hostile to the regime”, “attempting to inflame public opinion”, “filming protests and publishing on social media,” and “providing moral support to rioters”. The prosecutors called for execution, are quoting the Islamic Law principle of ta’zir, which says that “the judge has the discretion over the definition of what constitutes a crime and over the sentence.”
The Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) was sent up in Saudi Arabia in 2008 to try terrorism cases. However, reportedly, these courts are gaining infamy for prosecuting voices of dissent. In 2014, the court sentenced eight people, including prominent Shia cleric, Nimr al-Nimr for participating in Eastern Province demonstrations in 2011. On January 2, 2016, al-Nimr, along with three other Shia men was executed in the largest mass execution since the 1980s, where 47 were executed.
The current King of Saudi Arabia, who’s is widely touted as the youngest ruler of the modern era, had vowed to revive and diversify the stagnant economy and liberalise the conservative society. Among many other social and economic reforms, the king had made groundbreaking changes for the female citizens in his country by lifting the ban on female drivers, enabling women in Saudi Arabia to obtain their license and drive. But the although there have been major social and economic transformation in the country, he had made it clear that Saudi Arabia will remain a monarchy under his reign, with the tightening of political controls.
The Middle Eastern director of Human Rights Watch, Sarah Leah Whitson in a statement said, “Any execution is appalling, but seeking the death penalty for activists like Israa al-Ghumgham, who are not even accused of violent behaviour, is monstrous.” She added, “Every day, the Saudi monarchy’s unrestrained despotism makes it harder for its public relations teams to spin the fairy tale of ‘reform’ to allies and international business. If the crown prince is truly serious about reform, he should immediately step in to ensure no activist is unjustly detained for his or her human rights work.”
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