Sharif Nashashibi writes: There are several grounds on which to oppose the Saudi execution of Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr. One can do so due to a principled opposition to capital punishment in general. One can criticise the country’s judicial system – Human Rights Watch said this week that it “has documented longstanding due process violations in Saudi Arabia’s criminal justice system that make it difficult for a defendant to get a fair trial even in capital cases.”
One can criticise Nimr’s trial in particular, which Amnesty International called “grossly unfair”. One can argue that he should not have been arrested in the first place – HRW cited “vague charges that do not resemble recognisable crimes”.
One can oppose his execution because of the repercussions it will have regionally and beyond. One can even do so out of concern for Saudi Arabia itself, not just in terms of domestic unrest among its Shia population, but also its foreign interests.
However, in any situation, condemnation is meaningless when based on hypocrisy. As such, Iran – which has arguably been most vocal about Nimr’s execution – does not have a leg to stand on. “It is perhaps surprising that a regime which imprisons journalists, censors cartoonists and holds activists without charge for years on end should be in any position to moralise against another,” wrote Evan Bartlett, news editor at The Independent newspaper.
It is galling – almost comical – for the world’s second-biggest executioner after China to criticise the third-biggest on the subject of executions. It carries the same moral authority as the US lecturing others about gun control, or Japan discouraging other countries from whale-hunting. [Continue reading…]