Saudi authorities confirmed a death sentence on young pro-democracy activist Ali Al-Nemer in its ongoing crackdown on dissents. More activists are awaiting the courts’ final decisions on their death sentences. Western governments, Saudi allies, are complicit in the international silence towards human rights violations in the kingdom.
While the sentence was confirmed on September 11, Al-Nemer was arrested on February 14, 2012 when he was a 17-year-old high-school student. His father, Mohamed Al-Nemer, wrote in a Twitter post after court’s final decision: “Young men like Ali Al-Nemer should be in school and not in prison or in courts.”
According to reports by the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights, Saudi police ran over him and injured him while arresting him. Al-Nemer was subjected to solitary confinement, torture and a series of unfair secret trials. He was never aware of the charges against him until the first session of his secret trial in December 2013. Prior to that he was denied access to a lawyer. His family learnt about the charges through the government’s media outlets. The several charges include participating in demonstrations and attacking police. Subjecting Al-Nemer, and other activists, to secret trials violates basic human rights.
Several other young activists in Saudi Arabia are at imminent risk of a death sentence or are already facing it. Ali Al-Nemer’s uncle, a pro-democracy leader Sheikh Nemer Al-Nemer, has been sentenced to death. Initially, the sentence was in the form of crucifixion. Later, Saudi court confirmed death sentence in the form of beheading.
As well, Saudi forces have launched attacks on non-violent protestors in Awamiya and allegedly killed peaceful activists like Morsi Al-Rebeh. In addition, the Saudi military attacked Arab Spring demonstrators in Bahrain, home to the US Fifth Fleet.
Saudi Arabia is Canada’s second largest export market in the region. Canada is one of Saudi Arabia’s largest arms exporters despite the kingdom’s deteriorating human rights record. In late 2014, a $15-billion arms deal was reached between Canada and Saudi Arabia. “Trade and economic interests continue to be at the forefront of Canada’s bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia. However, Canada is seeking to diversify its relations with the Saudi Kingdom,” according to the Government of Canada.
The Saudi authorities gain its strength from its Western allies that continue to have good relations with the kingdom. Being in solidarity with activists in Saudi Arabia, including Al-Nemer and other peaceful prisoners of conscience, means holding Western governments accountable for their exceptionally good relations and arms deals. Protestors and activists facing brutal sentences exposes the hypocrisy of Western governments, including Canada, who ignore Saudi Arabia’s record of violations. Canadians can take action against the brutal oppression in Saudi Arabia by putting pressure on politicians in next month's elections.