Sheikh Nimr’s execution and Saudi Arabia appointment as UN rights panel head

Tehran, April 19, The Iran Project – 100 days have passed since Saudi Arabia executed prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr along with 47 others on January 2, in defiance with international calls for the release of the top religious figure and other jailed political dissidents.

Shia Muslims have long complained of discrimination in a country where the official Wahhabi ideology condones violence against them. The Shias face abuse sanctioned by Wahhabi clerics, rarely get permits for places of worship and seldom get senior public sector jobs.

Sheikh Nimr, a critic of the Riyadh regime, was shot by Saudi police and arrested in 2012 in the Qatif region of Shia-dominated Eastern Province, which was the scene of peaceful anti-regime demonstrations at the time.

He  was charged with allegedly instigating unrest and undermining the kingdom’s security, making anti-government speeches and defending political prisoners. He had rejected all the charges as baseless.

n 2014, a Saudi court sentenced Sheikh Nimr to death, provoking widespread global condemnations. The sentence was upheld last March by the appeal court of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi authorities even refused to hand over the cleric’s body to his family and buried him at an undisclosed cemetery, according to the Sheikh’s brother, Mohamed Nimr.

An Iranian woman attends an anti-Saudi demonstration in Tehran on January 4, 2016.

In face of this discriminatory and sectarian-motivated crime, Muslims around the world joined hands and reacted to the Saudi regime’s continuing heinous crimes against humanity and the violation of basic human rights, including Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Bahrain and India.

Bahrainis rally to protest the execution of top Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr by Saudi Arabia in the capital, Manama, on January 2, 2016.

Bahrainis rally to protest the execution of top Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr by Saudi Arabia in the capital, Manama, on January 2, 2016.

Global outcry

Amnesty International criticized the process of Sheikh Nimr’s trial and said it views the charges against the cleric as his right to free speech.

Former EU Foreign Policy Chief and NATO Secretary General, Javier Solana reiterated that Saudi execution of Shia cleric Nimr was a provocative action, in an  interview with Radio Madrid, SER.

Lebanon’s Supreme Islamic Shia Council condemned Riyadh’s execution of Sheikh Nimr as a “grave mistake.”

In addition, Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah, stated that the execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr by the Al Saud regime will not be taken lightly. He as well blasted Riyadh for its way of promoting divisions across the Muslim world

In a similar move, Pakistan’s Muslims Unity Assembly decried the move as a challenge against millions of Muslims worldwide.

In Yemen, the Houthi Ansarullah movement also described Sheikh Nimr as a “holy warrior” and said the Saudi execution of the top Shia cleric is a “flagrant violation of human rights.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi also condemned the move, stating that, “Violating human rights…leads to repercussions on the security, stability and the social fabric of the peoples of the region.”

In Iran, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has strongly condemned Saudi’s execution of Shia’s religions figure and said “Without a doubt, the unlawfully shed blood of this innocent martyr will have a rapid effect and the divine vengeance will befall Saudi politicians,”

Ayatollah Khamenei emphasized that “those who are honestly interested in the fate of humanity, [and] the fate of human rights and justice, must follow up on such issues and should not remain indifferent to this situation.”

Besides, human rights organizations have slammed Saudi Arabia for failing to address the rights situation in the kingdom. They say Saudi Arabia has persistently implemented repressive policies that stifle freedom of expression, association and assembly.

But gruesome executions have not stopped the Saudis’ Western allies from maintaining ties with the monarchy despite claims of support for human rights.

A tally by The Associated Press, which was based on reports by Amnesty International, showed Saudi Arabia had carried out 157 executions in 2015, most of which were beheading by sword.

While the Saudi kingdom has long been under fire at the international level for its grim human rights record, the funniest point is re-appointing Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative, Faisal bin Hassan Trad to the UN as the head of the five-member Consultative Group, a significant UNHRC panel.

It is worth noting that Saudi was voted onto the council in what some British politicians say was a secret vote-trading deal in 2013.