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UK Slammed for Failure to Condemn Saudis Over Planned Juvenile Executions

© Flickr / Tijl VercaemerSaudi flags at The Mall, London
Saudi flags at The Mall, London - Sputnik International
Britain has been urged to place pressure on Saudi Arabia to scrap the death penalty and withdraw its support for the country's prison system after it was revealed that a second juvenile is facing execution for his role in anti-government protests.

According to human rights organization Reprieve, Saudi citizen Dawoud al-Marhoon could be executed "at any time" after the country's Specialized Criminal Court upheld his beheading sentence.

Mr al-Marhoon, now 20, was 17-years-old when he was arrested by Saudi security officials in May 2012, following protests in the country's Eastern province that coincided with the Arab Spring uprising in the region.

Reprieve said that al-Marhoon was arrested without a warrant, tortured and forced to sign a confession that was subsequently used to convict him, while its also alleged that he was held in solitary confinement and barred from speaking to his lawyer.

The revelation comes after news broke that another young Saudi is also facing the death penalty for his actions in the 2012 protests.

Ali al-Nimr, who was 14 at the time of his arrest, last week had his sentence for crucifixion upheld, sparking international outrage. In a statement, Reprieve said:

"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." 

There is also widespread condemnation over the barbaric nature of the executions, with the French government and a group of UN experts calling on Saudi Arabia to halt Ali al-Nimr's 'crucifixion', which involves beheading and the public display of his body.

"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," Maya Foa, Reprieve's director of the death penalty team said.

Pressure Building on UK to Intervene

Following the news of the planned beheadings, pressure has been building on the UK — one of Saudi Arabia's major allies — to publicly denounce the country's actions and intervene to have the executions halted.

When quizzed on the issue of Saudi Arabia's planned execution of Ali al-Nimr, UK Prime Minister David Cameron told British television network Channel 4:

"We completely disagree with them about the punishment routines, about the death penalty."

However, when pressed on why Britain lobbied to have Saudi Arabia on the UN human rights council given the country's dismal human rights record, Cameron refused to offer an answer, despite being asked five times.

The UK government has been accused of not taking a strong enough stance on condemning Saudi Arabia for their human rights breaches, with London criticized for putting lucrative oil and defense contracts in front of basic human rights.

This has been compounded with further criticism of the UK for pursuing a bid to provide services to the Saudi prison system, which has been at the center of alleged human rights violations.

"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," Foa said.

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