Torture, forced ‘confessions’ and death sentences for juveniles – PM must raise human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia

Prime Minister Theresa May has been urged to use a trip to Saudi Arabia to press for the release of three juveniles who face beheading for allegedly attending protests.

Theresa May is due to arrive in Saudi Arabia tomorrow (Tuesday 4th April 2017) for talks. Her visit takes place amid fears for three prisoners who were arrested as children in 2012 and sentenced to death on charges relating to pro-democracy protests.

Abdullah al-Zaher, Dawoud al-Marhoon and Ali al-Nimr were sentenced to beheading and, in Ali’s case, ‘crucifixion’ despite their being 15, 17 and 17 at the time of their arrest.

Ali al-Nimr

All three juveniles were tortured into forced ‘confessions’, and convicted in secretive trials. They remain imprisoned, and could be executed at any time without notice being given to their families.

“As the Prime Minister makes ever greater overtures towards the Saudi Government, the Kingdom continues to carry out appalling abuses – including torture, forced ‘confessions’ and death sentences for juveniles. Theresa May’s desire for closer relations with the Gulf must not cloud Britain’s commitment to human rights. The Prime Minister must make it absolutely clear to the Saudis that the UK condemns torture and the death penalty – and she must call for the immediate release of Ali, Dawood and Abdullah.”
Harriet McCulloch, deputy director at Reprieve

Execution methods

‘Crucifixion’ (beheading followed by public display of the body)

Executions in 2017

So far, at least 20 people have been executed (as of 3 March 2017)

Executions in 2016

154 executions were carried out in 2016

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Reprieve has previously written to the Prime Minister about the cases, and asked her to call on the Saudi authorities to release the three and commute their sentences. In a Parliamentary answer last week, Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood said that the UK “remains concerned about [the] cases” and that UK officials last raised concerns with the Gulf Kingdom in January of this year. However, the UK appears not to have requested the release of the three young men.

The Prime Minister is understood not to have directly raised the cases with the Saudi authorities on her last visit to the Gulf. On that visit, she promised greater security assistance to governments in the region, saying the UK aimed to be the Gulf’s “partner of choice.”