RIYADH (Dispatches) – The UN has reacted to media reports about a deadly and destructive Saudi military crackdown against an eastern Shia town, urging the regime in Riyadh to respect human rights.
Speaking at a press conference in New York, Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said the world body could not independently verify the reports coming out of Awamiyah, but that all Riyadh’s actions should be in line with its commitments to human rights.
The UN wants Saudi Arabia to take human rights and international regulations into consideration before taking any action, the official was quoted as saying by the London-based New Arab media outlet.
Awamiyah is located in the Qatif region of Saudi Arabia’s Shia-populated Eastern Province. The small town of 30,000 that has, since 2011, been the center of anti-regime rallies, with the protesters calling for end to the kingdom’s discriminatory policies against the Shia minority.
The region has witnessed sporadic deaths of Saudi forces at the hands of unknown gunmen. Riyadh blames the Shia population for such assaults.
Since May, Riyadh has imposed a siege on Awamiyah in what it calls a "security campaign” against the gunmen there, launching almost daily attacks against the town, destroying residential areas and setting fire to buildings.
Shia Cleric to 13 Years in Prison
In another development, a court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced distinguished Shia cleric Ayatollah Sheikh Hussein al-Radhi to 13 years in prison as the Riyadh regime presses ahead with its heavy-handed crackdown on members of the religious community.
The Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh passed the ruling on the 66-year-old clergyman on Thursday, Arabic-language and independent Yemenat news website reported.
Sheikh Radhi’s relatives strongly condemned the court ruling, describing it as the application of the death penalty against the Shia cleric since he is already suffering from heart failure and cannot stand the harsh prison condition.
Sheikh Radhi was arrested on March 21, 2016, after being surrounded by a group of Saudi police officers and militiamen in the middle of a street in the city of al-Umran.
The prominent Shia clergyman had earlier been subjected to various forms of harassment and frequently summoned for questioning over his Friday sermons, which touched on a wide array of regional and domestic issues, including the execution of well-known Saudi Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr in early January 2016.
Sheikh al-Radhi has also condemned Saudi’s military aggression against Yemen and called for the withdrawal of Saudi forces from the impoverished conflict-ridden country.
Meanwhile, a court in Saudi Arabia has handed down death sentence to a Shia anti-regime activist.
The Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh issued the ruling against Haider Al Lif on Friday, Arabic-language Ahrar television network reported.
Saudi rights activists have condemned the verdict, arguing that Saudi authorities had earlier decided to overturn the decision against the Shia activist.
Since February 2011, Saudi Arabia has stepped up security measures in the Shia-dominated Eastern Province, which has been rocked by anti-regime demonstrations, with protesters demanding free speech, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination.
The protests have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown by the Saudi regime. Over the past years, Riyadh has also redefined its anti-terrorism law so as to repress pro-democracy movements.