Saudi Executions Pass 150 This Year, Nearing 2015 Total

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Saudi Executions Pass 150 This Year, Nearing 2015 Total

Saudi Arabia has executed at least 153 people this year, nearing last year's record high of 158, according to figures collated by human rights organization Reprieve.

Among those executed this year were at least 4 juveniles who were killed as part of a mass execution of 47 people in January this year. One of them, Ali al-Ribh, was arrested in school, tortured into a false ‘confession’ to protest-related charges, and executed.

The high number of executions raises fresh concerns for the fate of three other juveniles who have been sentenced to death – Ali al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon and Abdullah al Zaher. The trio were arrested as children in the wake of protests, and tortured into ‘confessions’. They could be executed at any time, without notification to their families.

It has also emerged the juveniles continue to be mistreated on death row. According to reports, prison guards recently beat Dawood and threatened him with solitary confinement after he submitted a complaint about a previous instance of abuse. The health of the three juveniles is said to be suffering amid poor prison conditions.

Some 47 of those who were executed this year were tried in the country’s secretive ‘Specialized Criminal Court’. Reprieve has raised concerns that the court is routinely used to try people who were arrested in relation to political protests, including the three juveniles, and a disabled young man named Munir Adam. Hearings often take place without a lawyer, and forced ‘confessions’ extracted under torture are frequently admitted as evidence.

According to the figures, 23 of those executed this year were arrested for drug offences – of these, 14 were foreign nationals. Previous research by Reprieve has found that many of those held on Saudi Arabia’s death row for drug-related offences are trafficking victims, who were forced to carry drugs into the Gulf from overseas.   

The figures are released as Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood meets with King Salman in Riyadh. Reprieve has written to Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, asking them to seek a commutation of the death sentences handed to juveniles and political protestors.

Mrs May said in a speech to the Gulf Cooperation Council earlier this month that the UK would help Gulf countries to “reform” and to “embed international norms.” However, she reportedly failed to raise individual cases during a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman.

Commenting, Maya Foa, a director at Reprieve, said: “Saudi Arabia’s 2016 execution toll is fast approaching last year’s shocking high, with some 153 prisoners killed. Among those executed were political protestors, people arrested for alleged drug offences, prisoners who were tortured into ‘confessions’, and juveniles. Meanwhile, Dawood al-Marhoon, who was arrested as a child and who languishes on death row, is being subjected to threats and beatings. These appalling abuses give the lie to the Prime Minister’s claim that the UK’s engagement with Saudi Arabia promotes ‘reform’. The Government must urgently use its ever-closer relationship with Saudi Arabia to secure genuine change – this includes the release of juveniles facing the death penalty, like Dawood.”

Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay.

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