Saudi executions: Protesters sentenced to death as children could be beheaded next, warns human rights campaigners

Ali al-Nimr was 17 when he was arrested in 2012 - he faces 'death by crucifixion'

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."

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.