Execution of Iranian Nationals in Saudi Arabia
Wednesday, July 04, 2012
Necessity of Following up the Case in International Tribunals
Researcher of Regional Developments
Revelations about painful and unprecedented execution of 18 Iranian nationals by the Saudi Arabian government has faced bilateral relations between Tehran and Riyadh with a new challenge. Before the executions and regardless of other baseless claims by Saudi Arabia against Iran, including allegations about Iran's plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, Tehran had taken effective steps to normalize ties with Saudi Arabia. Recent trips by Iran's foreign affairs and intelligence ministers to Riyadh were among those measures.
Review of the facts related to the Saudi government’s measure in executing Iranian nationals will prove that Iranian citizens had been denied of their most primary legal rights in the trial. According to Iranian officials as well as impartial observers, charges of carrying illicit drugs against the Iranian prisoners, which were pressed by the Saudi judicial officials, were never actually proven. However, regardless of falsehood or truth of charges, news services noted that Iranian nationals had been arrested in international waters of the Persian Gulf. If that is true, it will prove that Saudi forces had arrested them in violation of international regulations because free waters are not part of any countries’ territorial waters and, therefore, no country can enforce their laws and regulations there.
The next point is that Saudi Arabia is a member of 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and, therefore, it is under obligation to respect its relevant international obligations with goodwill. As for the recent execution of the Iranian nationals, the government of Saudi Arabia has clearly breached and violated its treaty obligations under Article 36 of the Convention. According to that article, Iranian nationals imprisoned in Saudi Arabia as well as Iran's consular officials enjoy special rights which are known as consular rights, but those rights have been unfortunately ignored by the Saudi officials. In blatant violation of the Convention, the Saudi officials have failed to inform Iranian prisoners of their right to have consular support and to inform Iran's consulate of their situation both during detention and court trial. The Saudi officials have even refrained from allowing the Iranian nationals to establish any contact with Iran’s consular authorities. Moreover, the Saudi government has so far prevented the relatives of executed Iranians from seeing and taking delivery of their dead bodies.
Another instance of violating the rights of Iranian detainees is that they had been tried by Saudi courts in the absence of legal representation and Iranian embassy officials and had not been even provided with interpreters. They were charged of carrying drugs under such unfair conditions. Therefore, their trial has been illegal and in defiance of all humane norms of international law. This issue has also been highlighted in the Amnesty International’s statement about execution of the Iranians. The Amnesty International has emphasized in its statement that trial of the Iranians in Saudi Arabia has not been fair and based on due process as the executed nationals of Iran have been deprived of legal representation at court.
Political observers believe that there is a lot of evidence to prove that execution of the Iranian nationals has been politically motivated. Interestingly, according to Iran's deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the first group of these people have been executed on the same day that new round of nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 group (the US, the UK, France, China, Russia, and Germany) opened in Turkish port city of Istanbul. The next group was killed in mid-May as Iran and the P5+1 were engaged in the second round of their talks in Iraq’s capital city of Baghdad. It is noteworthy that the Iranian nationals had been arrested about six years ago in international waters by the Saudi security forces and were subsequently sentenced to death by execution a year later. Since the verdict was handed down, it had been suspended for a period of five years. What factor has actually prompted Saudi officials to carry out that sentence after a lag of five years and without even informing the Iranian authorities?
At any rate, a suitable and proportional response by the Iranian officials at this juncture can underline sensitivity of Iran toward the rights of its nationals. It is clear that apart from offering its official apology for having violated Iranians’ rights and giving firm guarantees that such violation of rights will not occur in the future, the Saudi government should also take appropriate steps to make up for the losses which have been inflicted on their families in addition to paying blood money. The recent dispatching of a consular and legal delegation by the Iranian Foreign Ministry to Saudi Arabia is a promising development which shows Iran's serious determination to follow up on this case. The point, however, which should not be ignored, is that part of Iran's answer to this issue should be followed within official channels and within framework of relevant international conventions. The Iranian government should file an official lawsuit with international judicial authorities to protest against this measure by Saudi Arabian officials which defied all norms of international law and conventions. This will be similar to Saudi Arabia’s measure when it took its baseless charges about Iran having conspired to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington to the United Nations Security Council. It should be noted that the International Court of Justice has so far ruled in two cases (LaGrand vs. US and Avena vs. US) involving the violation of the consular rights of Mexican nationals as per Article 36 of 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations by the United States government. In both cases, the Court has ruled against the United States government. Therefore, if Iran takes the case to an international tribunal, Saudi Arabia will have no good excuse to justify its act of violating consular rights of the Iranian nationals.
Key Words: Execution of Iranian Nationals, Saudi Arabia, International Tribunals, Consular Relations, Saradar