Cameron urged to save Saudi juveniles facing execution

March 14, 2016

Image of Ali al-Nimr

David Cameron has been urged to intervene with Saudi Arabia to prevent the execution of three Saudi juveniles, after reports suggested their sentences may soon be carried out.

Last week, a government-affiliated Saudi news website reported that the authorities are planning to ‘complete’ a mass execution of 47 prisoners in January, by executing four more prisoners convicted in the country’s Specialized Criminal Court (SCC). The reports raised fears that the juveniles – Ali al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon and Abdullah al-Zaher – would be among those executed. All three juveniles had their sentences upheld last year, following secretive SCC proceedings which relied on ‘confessions’ they signed following torture.

Human rights organization Reprieve has written to David Cameron, asking him to intervene with the Saudi government and request that the authorities commute the sentences. Last year, UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said that, having raised Ali al-Nimr’s case with Saudi Arabia, he “did not expect” the execution to go ahead. However, subsequent comments by Mr Hammond regarding January’s mass execution – that those killed had been ‘terrorists’ – raised concerns about the UK’s approach. Reprieve has established that the 47 prisoners who were executed included political protestors, and at least four juveniles.

Reports of the latest impending executions came as the juveniles’ families voiced their fears. Speaking to Vice News, Abdullah’s father, Hassan al-Zaher, said: “We have been living a nightmare ever since Abdullah was arrested.” He added: “Please help me to save my son from the imminent threat of death – he doesn’t deserve to die just because he attended a protest.”

Research by Reprieve last year found that, of those that could be identified as facing execution in Saudi Arabia, some 72 per cent were convicted of non-violent crimes, including drug offences and political protest. Torture and forced ‘confessions’ were also reported to be common.

Commenting, Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said:

“Though Philip Hammond and David Cameron claim to have received assurances from the Saudi government that these juveniles will not be put to death, the executions of Ali, Dawood, and Abdullah once again appear imminent. It is too late to save the peaceful protestors and juveniles killed in January’s mass execution – but David Cameron can still act to ensure that the UK does not allow more children, convicted on sham terrorism charges, to be executed in Saudi Arabia.”


Notes to editors

1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications [at] / +44 (0) 207 553 8140. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine [dot] oshea [at] / +1 917 855 8064.

2. Reports of the impending executions can be seen in Saudi website Okaz, here (Arabic).

3. Philip Hammond’s remarks on the mass execution in January can be seen here.

4. Copies of Reprieve’s letter to David Cameron are available on request. A Reprieve petition calling on the Prime Minister to intervene with the Saudi government can be seen here.

5. Comments by the families of the juveniles were reported by Vice News, here.

6. Reprieve’s research into the death penalty in Saudi Arabia is available on the Reprieve website, here.