2022 was another challenging year for human rights defenders. However, despite challenges, Reprieve continued to make great progress toward our goal of a world without the death penalty and a world without extreme human rights abuses carried out in the name of “counterterrorism” or “national security”.
We deepened our work on Saudi Arabia where Reprieve is one of the very few international organisations working to document and challenge the death penalty alongside our partner, the European Saudi Organisation on Human Rights. We were delighted in February when our client Dawood al-Marhoon was released, after serving over nine years in prison. He was sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia after allegedly attending an anti-government protest when he was only 17. He was given a blank document and tortured into signing it. Dawood is now free and back with his family. March 2022 brought the horrific news that 81 men were executed in one day – the largest mass execution in Saudi Arabia’s modern history. We immediately highlighted this atrocity through a high profile media campaign, securing an urgent question in the British parliament, undertaking advocacy in Brussels and becoming the go-to media commentator on then Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s trip to meet the Crown Prince in the aftermath of the execution. We will continue to hold the Saudi Arabian regime to account for its abuses and broken promises to reform.
We also continued our work to secure the repatriation of the British men, women and children detained in camps in North East Syria. The UK remains an outlier in its refusal to repatriate its citizens, while many other countries around the world are repatriating theirs. Despite this, in October 2022 we were delighted to secure the repatriation of the first British woman and her child from North East Syria. They are now back in the UK rebuilding their lives. We were also extremely proud to work with Christina Lamb, Chief Foreign Correspondent at The Sunday Times, on a story that emerged from a visit to the detention camps. We empowered our clients to tell their stories for the first time; how they were trafficked to Syria, how citizenship was unjustly stripped from them, and how urgent their repatriation is. This was published in The Sunday Times magazine in August 2022 and played an important role in shifting the toxic narrative surrounding this group of individuals.
We were delighted that 2022 saw clemency being given to the final 25 people held on Malawi’s death row. This was the first time since 2005 that the President has used this power. This is the culmination of many years of work by Reprieve and our partners in Malawi, and now paves the way for total abolition of the death penalty. Hopefully we will soon see capital punishment in Sub-Saharan Africa condemned as a relic of the past.
Raising funds in 2022 has been challenging. The rising cost of living has seen many of our supporters understandably make difficult choices about their charitable giving. We are very proud that despite these challenges we were still able to carry out our strategic goals and continue our life-saving and life-changing work. We remain incredibly grateful to all of our supporters who choose to donate their money and time to Reprieve. We know that there are many pressures on people and we thank those who choose to support our work from the bottom of our hearts. We honestly couldn’t do it without you.
Finally, we would like to thank all of the partners, lawyers, campaigners and investigators that we work with. We are honoured and humbled to work with such committed human rights defenders, without whom none of this work would be possible. Thank you.
Anna Yearley OBE and Maya Foa
Joint Executive Directors