On February 6 2020, Dawood al-Marhoon will turn 25-years-old making this his fifth birthday on death row in Saudi Arabia. Al-Marhoon was arrested without a warrant in May 2012 at the Al-Dammam hospital while being prepared for surgery on an injury he incurred during a peaceful protest. Al-Marhoon was only a teenager when he was arrested and placed in isolation at a juvenile offenders’ facility. There, he was denied access to a lawyer. At the facility, he was interrogated for hours and forced to sign a confession that would be used to convict him for refusing to leak information on fellow protestors. On 23 September 2016, King Abdullah sentenced him to death by public beheading.
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) calls for the release of Dawood al-Marhoon and other prisoners that were arrested for unjust reasons. Ali al-Nimr is another protestor who was arrested as a teenager for attending a pro-democracy demonstration on 14 February 2012. He recently celebrated his 25th birthday on 19 December 2019 while awaiting his execution on death row in Saudi Arabia. Like Dawood, Ali was interrogated at length, tortured, and denied access to a lawyer. He was also given a blank confession to sign that was used to convict him and lead King Abdullah to choose to publicly behead him as well.
Dawood and Ali are not the only two that face such injustice. Murtaja Qureiris, at the young age of 13, was arrested and sentenced to death for allegedly participating in an anti-government protest in 2011. In 2019, the Saudi teenager received word that he would be spared from execution and has instead been sentenced to 12 years in prison. He is expected to be released by 2022.
“There should be no doubt that the Saudi Arabian authorities are ready to go to any length to crack down on dissent against their own citizens, including by resorting to the death penalty for men who were merely boys at the time of their arrest,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director.
Saudi Arabia has one of the highest rates of execution in the world. On 2 January 2016, Saudi authorities executed 47 men in the kingdom’s largest mass execution since 1980. One of those 47 men was Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, Ali al-Nimr’s uncle, who was regarded as a prominent Shia cleric. In total, Saudi Arabia executed a total of 184 people this last year. There has been an exponential rise in executions in the kingdom since 2015.
Saudi Arabia systematically discriminates against its minority citizens and to whomever is deemed a threat to the regime. Of those who are targeted by the Saudi police are political activists, Shia, women’s rights activists, and critics of the monarchy. More recently, 37 people were executed for allegedly spying for Iran and participating in anti-government demonstrations in the year 2019.
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) condemns the alarming escalation in the use of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia. ADHRB also condemns the unjust actions practiced, which clearly violate international fair trial standards, to extract confessions from their prisoners. The Saudi government must immediately release Dawood and provide him compensation for his unjust imprisonment, as well as release all prisoners on death row arrested and charged on spurious political charges.
Sahar Yazouri is an Advocacy Intern at ADHRB