Second Saudi juvenile to face ‘beheading’ for protests

October 6, 2015

Image of a shadow of a noose hanging on a cracked wall

A second juvenile is facing beheading in Saudi Arabia after a court upheld his conviction for a role in protests, days after the case of juvenile Ali al-Nimr sparked a global outcry.

Dawoud al-Marhoon was 17 when he was arrested without a warrant by Saudi security forces in May 2012, at the height of protests in the country’s Eastern Province. He was tortured and made to sign a ‘confession’ that was later relied on to convict him. He has been held in solitary confinement, and has been barred from speaking to his lawyer. Last week, the Specialized Criminal Court – the same body that recently upheld a sentence of ‘crucifixion’ for Ali al-Nimr – upheld Dawoud’s conviction, and sentenced him to death by beheading.

With legal avenues exhausted, both juveniles could now be executed at any time, without prior notification to their families. The executions are expected to go ahead despite concerns about the fairness of both trials; Dawoud was sentenced after a number of secret hearings took place without the presence of his lawyer, who was also blocked from receiving information about appeal hearings.

The case of Ali al-Nimr, who faces a sentence of ‘crucifixion’ – involving beheading and the public display of his body – has prompted strong international criticism, with the French government and a group of UN experts among those calling for a halt to the plans. Asked by the BBC on Sunday, British Prime Minister David Cameron said his message to the Saudi government was “don’t do it”, and that “we never stint in telling them that we don’t agree with them on these human rights issues.”

However, Mr Cameron’s government has been criticized for continuing with a Ministry of Justice bid to provide services to the Saudi prison system. Concerns were also raised last week about the UK’s foreign policy priorities after Sir Simon McDonald, Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office, told MPs that human rights no longer had the “profile” within his department that they had “in the past”.

Commenting, Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at the human rights organization Reprieve, said:

“Ali al-Nimr’s case has rightly prompted revulsion among the international community – it is therefore horrifying that the Saudi government is pushing ahead with plans to exact a similarly brutal sentence on another juvenile, Dawoud al-Marhoon. It’s also deeply disappointing to see the US and the UK – who are among the Saudis’ closest allies – failing to intervene strongly to stop these executions from going ahead. It is grossly hypocritical for David Cameron to say he opposes these sentences, while his government is bidding to support the very prisons service who will be responsible for carrying them out. The British government must urgently change its priorities – ministers must cancel the bid, and call unequivocally on Saudi Arabia to halt the executions.”


Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Reprieve’s press office: + 44 (0) 207 553 8140 / alice [dot] gillham [at]