| September 27, 2015
Saudi Arabia was appointed to a key UN human rights group just days ago.
Saudi Arabia, which was just admitted to the UN’s Human Rights Council days ago, will imminently behead and then crucify Ali Mohammed al-Nimr — a young man who encouraged pro-democracy demonstrations during the Arab Spring in 2012, when he was just 17 years old. In protest, the hacktivist collective Anonymous apparently shut down a number of Saudi government websites yesterday. Activists subsequently took to Twitter using the hashtag #OpNimr to oppose Saudi Arabia’s execution of al-Nimr.
Hacktivists aren’t the only ones in Al-Nimr’s corner: other figures to voice support include heads of state and celebrities like comedian Bill Maher, who last week tweeted his support for al-Nimr. Both France’s president and its prime minister have called on Saudi Arabia to abandon the execution. The UK’s newly-minted opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn, wrote a scathing letter to prime minister David Cameron demanding that he call on Saudi Arabia to “commute the unjust and horrific sentence”.
No prominent American official has spoken out against the Saudi government’s sentence. When press asked the US State Department’s spokesman for his thoughts on al-Nimr’s case, he claimed that he was “not aware of the trial” despite international outrage. When asked about Saudi Arabia’s controversial appointment to head a key UN human rights panel, the US spokesman replied, “We would welcome it. We’re close allies.”
The US and Saudi Arabia have been close allies for decades — the US has approved over $90 billion in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia since 2010. In 2014 alone, the US approved over $2.2 billion in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.
Many of these weapons are now being used by Saudi Arabia in its invasion of Yemen — and is committing the attacks with intelligence and logistical support from the US. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused Saudi Arabia of committing war crimes in its invasion.
Saudi Arabia’s campaign in Yemen has killed over 2,100 civilians and displaced over 1.4 million people, with 13 million Yemenis now food insecure. The invasion has caused 21 million people to be denied life-sustaining goods and services. Saudi Arabia further exacerbates Yemen’s humanitarian crisis with its naval blockade, which restricts access to humanitarian aid.
Al-Nimr’s execution would be far from Saudi Arabia’s first: according to Amnesty International, Saudi Arabia ranks #3 among the world’s top 5 executioners in 2014 (the US ranked #5). Since 1985, Saudi Arabia has executed over 2,200 people for “crimes” including sorcery, witchcraft, adultery, and drug possession. Most of these executions were carried out in the form of a public beheading, though some were carried out by firing squad.
The Leahy Law prohibits the US government from providing military aid to countries guilty of “a gross violation of human rights”; however, the US continues to arm Saudi Arabia in clear violation of this prohibition.