Boris Johnson must urge Gulf to end child death sentences – Reprieve

December 9, 2016

Images of Ali al-Nimr

The Foreign Secretary has been urged to use a visit to the Gulf today to call for the release of juveniles and political dissidents sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

Boris Johnson will travel to Bahrain today for meetings at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit. The trip follows a visit to the Gulf this week by the Prime Minister, Theresa May.

International human rights organization Reprieve had written to Mrs May urging her to press Saudi Arabia to release three juveniles – Ali al Nimr, Dawood al Marhoon, and Abdullah al Zaher – who face execution in Saudi Arabia on charges relating to protests; and a father of three, Mohammed Ramadan, who faces execution on similar charges in Bahrain. Earlier this week, Mr Ramadan’s 7 year old son Ahmed called on the Prime Minister to intervene for his father.

However, Downing Street would not confirm whether the Prime Minister had raised any individual cases – an apparent departure from previous statements. Mrs May’s predecessor, David Cameron, publicly called on the Saudi authorities not to execute the three juveniles, while the Foreign Office has confirmed that Boris Johnson has raised the cases in the past.

Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have received substantial support and training from the UK for their prison and police services, despite concerns that both countries sentence people to death on political charges, often on the basis of ‘confessions’ signed under torture. This week, Mrs May said that the UK is “determined to continue to be your partner of choice as you embed international norms and see through the reforms which are so essential for all of your people.”

Reprieve’s letter to the Prime Minister also warned that several more juveniles may have been sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia, and raised concerns over recently-announced plans in Kuwait to lower to 16 the age at which people can be sentenced to death.

Commenting, Maya Foa, a director at Reprieve, said:

“Boris Johnson has a crucial opportunity this weekend to do what Theresa May failed to do, and seek to secure the release of juveniles and political dissidents who have been tortured and sentenced to death in the Gulf. The Prime Minister talked this week about helping the Gulf ‘embed international norms’ – surely this should include an end to such appalling abuses as police torture, forced ‘confessions’ and the death penalty for protesting. The Foreign Secretary must call clearly on Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to release juveniles like Ali al-Nimr, and innocent protestors like Mohammed Ramadan.”


Notes to editors

1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications [at] Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine [dot] oshea [at]

2. The full text of the letter to the Prime Minister is available on Reprieve’s website.