Fears are growing that those sentenced to death as children could be next in line to face the executioner’s sword in Saudi Arabia, a leading human rights organisation has said.
The international group Reprieve, which works against the death penalty worldwide, said two of the 47 inmates executed by the kingdom yesterday were teenagers when they were arrested.
The group said Ali al-Ribh was 18 and Mohammed al-Shuyokh 19 at the time of their arrests in 2012. Both were convicted on charges related to anti-government protest held in the eastern oil-rich region of the kingdom. Reprieve added that David Cameron could not turn a “blind eye” to the executions.
Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said Saudi Arabia had executed more than 150 people during 2015, many for non-violent offences. She added that execution of 47 prisoners – including the prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr – on a single day was “appalling” and a sign that the bloodshed in 2016 “could be even worse”.
Mrs Foa said: "Alarmingly, the Saudi government is continuing to target those who have called for domestic reform in the kingdom, executing at least four of them today. There are now real concerns that those protesters sentenced to death as children could be next in line to face the swordsman's blade.
"Saudi Arabia's allies - including the US and UK - must not turn a blind eye to such atrocities and must urgently appeal to the kingdom to change course."
Juveniles on death row in Saudi Arabia
Juveniles on death row in Saudi Arabia
1/8 Abdullah al-Zaher
Abdullah al-Zaher was arrested at the age of 15 for attending a protest and he is was the youngest in a group of juvenile offenders put on death row
2/8 Abdullah al-Zaher
Previously held alongside fellow juvenile offender Ali al-Nimr, whose case sparked outrage around the world, Abdullah has now been moved to solitary confinement at a new facility and could be beheaded at any moment
3/8 Abdullah al-Zaher
His family and lawyers believe he was forced to sign a document without knowing its contents, and which later was used as a “confession” in the closed trial against him
4/8 Ali Mohammed al-Nimr
Ali Mohammed al-Nimr faces imminent beheading and crucifixion for crimes he reportedly committed as a child
5/8 Ali Mohammed al-Nimr
The UN has issued an urgent call for Saudi Arabia to halt his execution but a Saudi court has upheld the sentence of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, the son of a prominent government dissident, despite growing and high-level international condemnation
6/8 Ali Mohammed al-Nimr
Mr al-Nimr, who was arrested in 2012 for his participation in Arab Spring protests when he was just 16 or 17 years old, could now be put to death at any time
7/8 Dawood al-Marhoon
Dawood al-Marhoon was 17 year old when he was arrested for participating in an anti-government protest
8/8 Dawood al-Marhoon
After refusing to spy on his fellow protesters, he was tortured and forced to sign a blank document that would later contain his ‘confession’. At Dawood’s trial, the prosecution requested death by crucifixion while refusing him a lawyer
Among those currently facing the death penalty in the Saudi kingdom is the nephew of the recently executed cleric Sheikh Nimr. Ali al-Nimr was 17 in February 2012 when he was arrested and was later convicted on charges of attacking security forces and taking part in protests, among other charges.
The group adds that he was arrested without warrant, held in pre-trial detention for two years and at no point was allowed to contact his lawyer. They add he was tortured and forced to sign a false confession.
According to Reprieve Ali al-Nimr was sentenced to ‘death by crucifixion’. His name, however, was not on the list of 47 names published by Saudi authorities after the mass execution on Saturday.
Additional reporting by PA.