Theresa May must act on child death sentences at Gulf Summit

December 4, 2016

Image of a beheading occurring

The British Prime Minister is set to attend the summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) this week, as a number of Gulf kingdoms continue to use the death penalty against children, or threaten to do so.

International human rights organisation Reprieve has written to Theresa May asking her to use the Summit to raise the cases of three prisoners sentenced to death as children in Saudi Arabia; and to call on Kuwait to reverse its plans to lower the age at which people become eligible for a death sentence to 16.

Ms May is reportedly set to attend the GCC Summit in Manama, Bahrain on 6-7 December as guest of honour.  The summit will be attended by a number of non-democratic kingdoms which have a record of using the death penalty against political opponents, protesters and children aged under 18.

Saudi Arabia sentenced to death Abdullah al Zaher, Dawoud al Marhoon and Ali al Nimrfor alleged involvement in protests in the kingdom, despite their being 15, 17 and 17 respectively at the time of their arrest.  All three remain imprisoned under sentence of death and could be executed at any time, without even their families being informed beforehand.

According to Gulf News, the Kuwaiti Government recently announced that, from 2017, the age of eligibility for the death penalty would be lowered to 16.  The announcement was made by Bader Al Ghadhoori, the head of juvenile protection at the Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior, during a talk warning students about the use of social media and the internet.

In Bahrain, Mohammed Ramadan is held under a sentence of death based on a ‘confession’ which was tortured out of him following his involvement in protests calling for reform in the country.

All three of these Gulf States enjoy a close relationship with the British Government, and many have received support and training from the UK for their prison and police services, despite their use of the death penalty and torture to extract false ‘confessions.’

During 2016, Freedom of Information requests by Reprieve have revealed that

The letter, sent on 17 November by Reprieve director Maya Foa, asks that the Prime Minister

…use [her] attendance at the GCC summit to:

1) Urge the Saudi authorities to commute the death sentences of Ali al Nimr, Dawood al
Marhoon, and Abdullah al Zaher, and those of any other juveniles facing the death
penalty in the country;

2) Call on the Bahraini Government to commute the death sentences handed to
Mohammed Ramadan and Hussain Moosa, and to release the two men;

3) Request that Kuwait’s Government urgently call off its plans to lower to 16 the age at
which individuals can receive the death penalty.

Commenting, Maya Foa said:

“Across the Gulf, the situation is dire for political reformers and juveniles locked up on death row.  These people should not even be in prison, let alone spending their days under the threat of imminent execution.  The Prime Minister must call on the UK’s Gulf allies to commute the death sentences handed down to children and to protesters, and release them from prison.  Theresa May cannot allow the pursuit of trade deals to ride roughshod over the most basic principles of justice and freedom, which Britain is supposed to uphold.”


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.