The U.N. human rights chief condemned Saudi Arabia’s beheading of 37 people on Monday, expressing concern that most were Shiite Muslims who may have not received a fair trial.
Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday that they carried out the execution of 37 people across the country for terrorism-related crimes. Those executed were chosen by a Saudi criminal court for allegedly attacking security installations, killing a number of security officials and working with enemy organizations that go against the kingdom’s interests. (RELATED: Saudi Arabia Beheads 37 People For Terrorism Crimes)
However, in a statement in Geneva, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet found that U.N. rapporteurs “had expressed concern about a lack of due process and fair trial guarantees amid allegations that confessions were obtained through torture,” wrote Reuters.
Additionally, Amnesty International wrote that the majority of the men were convicted through “sham trials” that “relied on confessions extracted through torture.”
The human rights organization found that 11 of the men were convicted in a “grossly unfair trial” for spying for Iran, and at least 14 others were executed for violent offenses in anti-government demonstrations between 2011 and 2012.
“The 14 men were subjected to prolonged pre-trial detention and told the court that they were tortured or otherwise ill-treated during their interrogation in order to have ‘confessions’ extracted from them,” wrote the organization.
Saudi Arabia’s executions were also condemned for the sentencing and killing of three minors. Abdulkareem al-Hawaj was arrested when he was 16, making his execution a violation of international law, which states that the use of the death penalty for those under 18 at the time of the crime is prohibited, according to Amnesty International. (RELATED: IHOP Boycotts Tucker Carlson But Not Saudi Arabia)
“It is particularly abhorrent that at least three of those killed were minors at the time of their sentencing,” said Bachelet.
“The use of the death penalty is always appalling but it is even more shocking when it is applied after unfair trials or against people who were under 18 at the time of the crime, in flagrant violation of international law,” said Amnesty International’s Lynn Maalouf Middle East Research Director.
Of the 37 executed, 34 were identified by their names to be minority Shiites, who make up the majority of Saudi Arabia’s rival Iran. The executions are likely to further tensions between the two nations. (RELATED: Cleric Who Led Uprising Against US Troops Wins Iraq Election)
“Today’s mass execution is a chilling demonstration of Saudi Arabian authorities callous disregard for human life,” said Maalouf. “It is also yet another gruesome indication of how the death penalty is being used as a political tool to crush dissent from within the country’s Shi’a minority.”
Saudia Arabia has faced global scrutiny since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year and their detention of women’s right’s activists. The country has one of the highest death penalty rates in the world and at least 104 people have been executed so far this year. In 2018, Saudi Arabia carried out a total of 149 executions for the entire year.