Saudi Arabia: Forced Mercenary Service of Hundreds remains uninvestigated

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (nsnbc) – Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Bin Abdulaziz has pardoned 76 Egyptian prisoners on Thursday. The pardon comes on the occasion of his accession to the throne. Meanwhile, the forced use of hundreds of foreign prisoners as insurgents in Syria, as shown in a leaked Interior Ministry document that was published in nsnbc in 2012 has still not been investigated by the “international community”.

A statement released by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry on Thursday confirmed the pardon and the expected release of the 76 Egyptian prisoners, reports The Cairo Post.

The Egyptian Consulate in Riyadh is reportedly completing procedures for the release of the pardoned prisoners.  No mention was made about the 194 Egyptians who, according to a leaked document were forced to serve as terrorists in Syria.

So far it remains unclear whether the Egyptian lawyer Ahmed al-Gizawi, who has been jailed in Saudi Arabia since 2012 is among the pardoned inmates. Al-Gizawi is currently being retried for the alleged possession of drugs. In January 2013 he was sentenced to five years plus 300 lashes.

The 79 year-old Salman assumed power in January after the death of the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz. On Thursday Salman issued a decree in which he appointed his nephew Prince Muhammad bin Nayef as Crown Prince and Interior Minister.

It remains to be seen whether the pardon was a token of political politeness towards Egypt and an implicit message to the people of Saudi Arabia that shows that the absolute monarch has absolute powers over his subjects as well as over foreign prisoners; The pardon does, however, also raise the question whether Salman and Nayef signal a change in Saudi Arabia’s infamous human rights record with regard to prisoners.

Forced Use of Prisoners as Mercenaries and Terrorists.

In December 2012 nsnbc international obtained and published a leaked document from Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry.

The official, classified document shows that the authorities of Saudi Arabia ordered the release of a group of the most dangerous criminals who had been sentenced to death in exchange for serving among mercenary terrorist brigades in Syria.

Prior to their deployment to Syria the convicts were to be trained in unconventional warfare, terrorism, or in what is euphemistically described as Jihad. The group mentioned in the leaked document included 194 Egyptians.

The group of convicts described in the leaked document included 105 Yemeni, 21 Palestinian, 212 Saudi, 96 Sudanese, 254 Syrian, 82 Jordanian, 68 Somali, 32 Afghan, 194 Egyptian, 203 Pakistani, 23 Iraqi and 44 Kuwaiti citizens. It is unlikely that this group is the only such group that is going to be deployed by Saudi Arabia.

"Flag of Saudi Arabia"

“Flag of Saudi Arabia”

Saudi Arabia’s release of convicts with death sentences and their forced use as insurgents is a gross violation of the Geneva Conventions. The Conventions regulate, among others, the wartime rights of civilian and military prisoners.

Arguably, their deployment to Syria constituted forced use of prisoners and could potentially lead to a prosecution of the Saudi government at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

So far, none of the relevant UN organizations, including the Human Rights Council or the International Criminal Court (ICC) have responded to, investigated, or prosecuted that what amounts to several of the most serious crimes, including the forced use of prisoners, the use of mercenaries, State sponsorship of terrorism as well as crimes against peace.


Author: Christof Lehmann

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