Judge Abdulaziz bin Medawi al-Jaber, a Saudi judge notorious for sentencing a child from the Shiite minority to death in 2014, is now abusing the rights of peaceful cleric Salman Alodah, on trial for his life for charges that include "expressing cynicism about the government's achievements."
"Bin Medawi al-Jaber is among the most notorious judges at the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh," said Abdullah Alaoudh, Gulf Director at DAWN. "Al-Jaber is using his position on the bench to silence peaceful activism and dissent."
Al-Jaber has a long history of convicting activists deemed by the Saudi authorities to threaten their absolute rule and enforcing abusive laws that criminalize dissent. In 2011, al-Jaber presided over the cases of Yousef al-Ahmed, Abd al-Rahman al-Sayyid, Abd al-Majeed al-Muhanna, and other conservative scholars and activists who demanded that the Saudi government apply a criminal procedure statute known as the "Criminal Procedures," according to the campaign statement of Yousef al-Ahmed. Al-Jaber sentenced al-Ahmed to five years in prison. He also sentenced 15 individuals from the Shiite minority accused of spying for the Iranian government to death, according to Alalam TV. Activists close to these individuals said these court rulings targeted them solely because of their peaceful activism and expression. According to the International Council Supporting Fair Trials (ICSFT), the Saudi government executed them on December 6, 2016. According to the Saudi lawyer and Director of the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights, Ali Adubisi, al-Jaber sentenced Abdullah al-Zahir, a child from the Shiite minority, to death in October 2014. Security officials arrested Al-Zahir in March 2012, at the age of 15, during public protests in the city of Qatif in the eastern region of Saudi Arabia, and al-Jaber sentenced him to death when the boy was 17. International law prohibits sentencing people to death for crimes committed while they were children. The Saudi royal court reportedly pledged in 2020 not to execute people for crimes committed while they were children, although it has yet to publish the royal decree. In February 2021, the Saudi king ordered al-Zahir and two other children to be resentenced to ten years in prison, according to a family member.
Al-Jaber as of September 2020 presides over the cases of many peaceful activists, including Palestinian and Jordanian detainees whom Saudi authorities arrested over their support for charitable Palestinian organizations, according to Arabi21. He has convicted others for their peaceful speech and advocacy, which are protected by international law, and in doing so has enforced prima facie unjust laws that criminalize dissent.
As of September 2018, al-Jaber also presides over the prolonged trial and detention of Salman Alodah, who is being prosecuted for his peaceful speech and advocacy. Al-Jaber is also personally responsible for serious due process violations during that trial. During multiple hearings, al-Jaber did not allow Alodah's lawyer to speak at all. At one hearing, in an unprecedented move, al-Jaber and his colleagues proceeded in hearing Alodah's case in his absence while Alodah remained in his prison cell. Al-Jaber and his colleagues have repeatedly delayed the trial proceedings and issued multiple postponements without justification, allowing several months to elapse between hearings, despite telling Alodah that they would issue a verdict back in 2019. Alodah has been in pretrial detention since September 2017.
"Al-Jaber and his colleagues are an integral part of the Saudi authorities' crackdown on intellectual, political and press freedoms," Alaoudh said. "Someone should tell them that peaceful writing and demonstrating are not acts of terrorism."
Born in Abha in the south of Saudi Arabia, al-Jaber studied at the Scientific Institute in Abha, obtaining a bachelor's and master's in jurisprudence. On April 13, 2013, al-Jaber obtained his PhD from the Islamic University of Madinah. According to the Saudi news outlet Sabq, he represented the Ministry of Justice as part of a Saudi judicial delegation that traveled to Europe and the US in 2018.
Al-Jaber sat as a judge for the General Court in Yadamah governorate in Najran, in the south of Saudi Arabia, before receiving a promotion to President of the General Court of Yadamah governorate and served there until August 2008. He also sat as a judge at the Criminal Court in Jeddah Governorate, and he has served as the Assistant Head of the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh since 2018. For the last decade, judges on the Specialized Criminal Court have used the court as a venue to suppress speech and dissent by convicting peaceful activists of terrorism-related charges.
See the case: Salman Alodah
DAWN contacted al-Jaber on December 9, 2020, via the Saudi authorities, to request a response, but no response was received by the time of publication.
Watch the video on Abdulaziz al-Jaber here:
About DAWN's culprit gallery:
Tyrants need enablers who will implement their oppressive practices, even if it means abusing their fellow citizens. These agents often mask their complicity in the guise of professionals exercising their duties in offices, courtrooms, police stations, and interrogation rooms.
DAWN seeks to disclose the identity of the state agents who enable repression and, to make them recognizable at home and abroad. These individuals, whom DAWN calls "culprits," bear administrative, civil, moral, legal, and/or political responsibility for human rights and international humanitarian law violations.