72% of Saudi death sentences handed down for non-violent crimes – report
October 21, 2015
The vast majority of people facing execution in Saudi Arabia were convicted for non-violent crimes including political protest and drugs offences, according to new research from the human rights organization Reprieve.
The report includes data gathered by Reprieve on 171 of the prisoners currently on death row in Saudi Arabia. It finds that 72 per cent of those prisoners whose alleged offences Reprieve has been able to determine were sentenced to death for non-violent crimes – including attendance at political protests and drug offences. Reprieve has also been able to establish that of 62 of the 224 prisoners estimated to have been executed in Saudi Arabia since January 2014, some 69 per cent had also been sentenced to death for non-violent offences.
Among those facing execution are prisoners who were sentenced to death as children, such as Ali Mohammed al-Nimr and Dawoud Hussain al-Marhoon. The two juveniles were arrested at 2012 protests, and were tortured into ‘confessions’ that were later used to convict them in the country’s secretive Specialized Criminal Court (SCC). Reprieve’s report also establishes that the use of torture to extract ‘confessions’ is widespread, with specific cases identified where prisoners have been beaten to the point of suffering broken bones and teeth.
The death sentences handed down to the two juveniles have provoked strong public concern from countries allied to Saudi Arabia such as the UK, the US and France. Yesterday, speaking to MPs both about Ali’s case and that of British citizen Karl Andree, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said: “I do not expect Mr Andree to receive the lashings that he has been sentenced to, and I do not expect Mr al-Nimr to be executed.” However, Mr Hammond provided no details of any assurances received from the Saudi government.
Speaking to human rights organization Reprieve earlier today, Ali’s father Mohammed al-Nimr, said while he was glad politicians may have received some assurances from the Saudis, “the facts on the ground leave much fear and doubt”. He revealed that Ali was now being held “in the solitary cells reserved for those facing execution”, adding: “I tried to visit him yesterday but they prevented me.”
Commenting, Kate Higham, caseworker at Reprieve, said: “This report shows how Ali and Dawoud’s death sentences are just the tip of the iceberg. The Saudi government appears to be routinely sentencing people, including juveniles, to death for non-violent crimes such as attending protests. All too often, these sentences are handed down on the basis of ‘confessions’ extracted through torture, as in Ali and Dawoud’s cases. Ali and Dawoud are now being held in solitary confinement and could face imminent execution at any time. The UK and other close allies of Saudi Arabia must redouble their efforts to see the juveniles released to their families – they must also send a strong message to the Saudis that these widespread abuses are utterly unacceptable.”
Notes to editors
1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization with offices in London and New York City. For more information, contact Reprieve’s press office:
2. A copy of the report is available here.