Theresa May urged to intervene on Saudi Arabia death penalty cases

Posted On: 
17th July 2017

Theresa May must tell Saudi Arabia to halt the execution of 14 people - including two youngsters - who confessed to crimes under torture, an ex-minister said today.

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Prime Minister Theresa May meets King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud of Saudi Arabia

Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake urged the Prime Minister not to be an “apologist for human rights abusers”.

Mujtaba Sweikat and Salman Qureish - both of whom were juveniles when they committed their alleged crimes in 2012 - are among the 14 on death row for protest-related offences, the Lib Dems said.

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According to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International the group - all of whom are of the Shia community - were put on death row for confessions that followed more than two years of pre-trial detention.

Many of the defendants have since retracted their confessions saying they were coerced using methods including beatings and prolonged solitary confinement, the campaign groups said.

During an Urgent Question in the House of Commons today, Mr Brake - the Lib Dems' international trade spokesman - called on Mrs May to appeal to the British ally over the impending executions.

He said she should try to have them stopped or to withhold justice assistance to the Kingdom if they go ahead.

He added: “Mr Speaker, our Prime Minister is promoting the UK as a global nation. 

“How we respond to the threat of summary executions by a close partner and ally will determine exactly what kind of global nation she intends the UK to be; a global champion of human rights or an apologist for human rights abusers.”

But Foreign Minister Alistair Burt said: "The UK government opposes the death penalty in all circumstances and in every country including Saudi Arabia especially for crimes other than the most serious and for juveniles."

He said the the cases had been raised with the Kingdom and that assurances had been given that anyone who remains a minor will not be executed.

Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said: “The rise in death sentences against Saudi Arabian Shia is alarming and suggests that the authorities are using the death penalty to settle scores and crush dissent under the guise of combating ‘terrorism’ and maintaining national security.”

Mrs May has recently promised to “engage” and raise “difficult issues” with other countries when Britain deems it necessary.

But she was blasted recently for withholding a report into the foreign funding of British terror groups which was expected to criticise the Kingdom.