Spotlight on Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has been one of the five top executing countries in the world for more than a decade. Having put more than 300 people to death in the past two years, this trend shows no sign of stopping.

The death penalty in Saudi Arabia is regularly imposed for ‘protest-related offences’, including attendance at political protests. Even ‘crimes’ like adultery, blasphemy and sorcery can be punishable by death.

Quick facts

Execution methods

  • Beheading
  • Stoning
  • ‘Crucifixion’ (beheading followed by public display of the body).

Executions in 2017

So far, at least 100 people have been executed.

Executions in 2016

154 executions were carried out in 2016.

Convictions in Saudi death penalty cases often rely on false ‘confessions’ coerced through torture. Those sentenced to death may then suffer the further indignity of a public execution. In the case of a ‘crucifixion’, their beheaded body will even be displayed after death.

Notable executions

In January 2016, Saudi Arabia executed 47 people in just one day. Several juveniles were among the victims of this mass execution. At least one – Ali al Ribh – was convicted on charges relating to protests.

While Saudi Arabia claimed the 47 were executed for terror charges, Ali’s offence was taking part in demonstrations calling for political reform as a 17 year old.

He was arrested at his school and executed along with 46 others. The Saudi authorities did not inform his family of the execution and are keeping the location of his burial secret.

British involvement

Reprieve has raised concerns that UK funding and training for Saudi security bodies could be contributing to human rights abuses, including the death penalty. Reprieve has discovered that British police have trained their Saudi counterparts in investigation techniques that could lead to the arrest, torture and sentencing to death of protesters, and that these projects have been undertaken without proper safeguards.

Prisoners facing execution

Reprieve is working own the cases of Abdullah al-Zaher, Dawoud al-Marhoon and Ali al-Nimr, who were sentenced to death for ‘crimes’ including attending illegal pro-democracy protests, “explaining how to give first aid to protestors” and using a Blackberry to invite others to join the protest. They were all under 18 years old at the time of arrest, and all tortured.

Ali al-Nimr

2015_10_30_PUB Ali al-NimrOn 14 February 2012, at the age of 17, Ali was arrested for allegedly participating in anti-government protests in the eastern district of Qatif of Saudi Arabia. Two years later he was sentenced to death by beheading, based solely on a fabricated statement he was tortured into signing and that was used as an alleged ‘confession’. Ali is now facing imminent execution.

Read more about Ali’s case here


Dawoud Hussain al-Marhoon

2015_10_29_PUB Dawood al-MarhoonA second Saudi juvenile is facing imminent death by beheading for his alleged role in pro-democracy protests. Dawoud al-Marhoon was 17 when he was arrested without a warrant by Saudi security forces in May 2012. He was tortured and made to sign a ‘confession’ that was later relied on to convict him.


Read more about Dawoud

Abdullah Hasan al-Zaher

Abdullah was only 15 when he was arrested for allegedly participating in protests for democracy. He was shot at and injured by security forces, and tortured into signing a false ‘confession’. He is now awaiting execution in solitary confinement in a prison 1,000km away from his family home.
Read more about Abdullah


Saudi Arabia has sentenced fourteen peaceful protesters – including a young disabled man and two juveniles – to death.

Saudi Arabia claims to be modernising and reforming under its Vision 2030 programme. But any vision of the future, however grand, is fundamentally undermined by continuing to execute peaceful protesters and children. If Saudi Arabia is to have a bright future, these young men must be alive to see it.

Can you sign our petition and call on King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed to stop these executions?

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