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Executions in Saudi Arabia: shame and cynicism!

By Raphael Chenuil-Hazan, Executive Director of ECPM

This article was published in the digital version of the newspaper Le Monde on May 2, 2019.

After the Jamal Khashoggi case, the Saudi kingdom found itself at a loss. To be banished from the nations, to no longer look to the future and to see only ungodly, enemies, opponents, dissidents, terrorists to be killed or eliminated, whatever the cost.

Another possibility would have been the choice of a certain openness (perhaps progressive at first) but real, sincere and visible. Unfortunately, this was not the chosen path.

The spadassins of the kingdom may carry Riad’s voice everywhere, but the time of oil and monetary power is over. Yesterday, the international private sector was fighting to trade with Saudi Arabia at any price, today, it is blocking its nose, tomorrow it will be ashamed.

For my part, I (like other international NGO leaders) have been approached several times by Saudi diplomacy. I had the opportunity to meet them, particularly at their embassy in Brussels last November, to discuss with them the future, dialogue and engagement of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s (MBS) policy on the application of the death penalty.

They told me that things were moving forward, moving in a tribal and ultra-conservative environment that had to be taken into account. I have answered them many times that, beyond incantations, acts, proofs and symbols are needed; that this displayed goodwill is not just an element of a well-oiled communication plan. My position has always been clear: the door is always open, if you want to open it!

The mass executions of recent days (36 beheadings and one crucifixion on 23 April and more than a hundred executions since the beginning of 2019) have finished closing this double door.

The world must acknowledge this, but paralysis (or hypocrisy) continues to prevail within nations and particularly at the UN in Geneva or New York. Political Europe is not strong enough to carry this disgrace. It is therefore up to the citizens of the world to make this known, from Paris to Casablanca, from Washington to Jakarta.

Victims of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia must have a face. They are young people, women, men from (Shia) minorities or the most vulnerable populations (poor, migrant workers from Asia). How can we not think of Tuti Tursilawati, an Indonesian cleaning woman executed last October for killing his employer while trying to rape her, or Mujtaba al-Sweikat, a young teenager arrested when he was only 17 years old for participating in a pro-democracy march and beheaded on 23 April, or this young Nigerian woman executed in early April for drug trafficking alongside two Pakistani and a Yemeni

I am also thinking of Israa al-Ghomgham, a human rights activist, and the young blogger Ali-Al-Nimr (nephew of Nimr Baqr al-Nimr, a known Shia preacher executed in 2016) still under the death penalty. I am thinking of Lujain al-Hathloul, a young woman defender of women’s rights who was tortured in prison. Finally, I think of Raïf Badawi, a famous blogger who is entering his 10th year in prison after having received many lashes for his fight for freedom of expression.

Because they have faces, that of injustice, and Saudi Arabia has faces of barbarism.

Saudi Arabia has become Daesh’s objective ally. They share the same vision of the world based on the rejection of otherness and freedom of expression, and on the use of terror as the only vision of the world, the death penalty as instruments.