UK promotes exports at Gulf police fair, as families of Saudi juveniles appeal for help

London, United Kingdom (Reprieve– The government is promoting British security exports at a trade fair in Dubai this week that is expected to be attended by the Saudi government, amid fears for three Saudi juveniles sentenced to death for protests.

Several British companies are listed as exhibitors this week in the ‘Homeland Security and Policing’ category at Intersec, a major policing and security fair hosted by the Dubai police. UKTI offers support to companies to attend the event through the Tradeshow Access Programme, which lists Saudi Arabia as a priority market for UK exports. Visitors to last year’s event included the Saudi Ministry of Justice and the government of Egypt, and there are concerns that UKTI’s support for such events risks British complicity with rights abuses in these countries.

Intersec’s promotional material says that homeland security and policing is “a fast growing industry in the [Middle East] region”, and that “UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and China are the fastest growing homeland security and public safety markets in the world”. A UKTI document unearthed by Reprieve last year noted that global security sales were “predicted [to] rise to £570b by 2016”, and said that UKTI’s Defence and Security Organisation (DSO) was focused on “raising the profile of UK security equipment” and “utilising HMG networks to identify opportunities [for security exports]” in the Middle East and elsewhere.

The news comes as the families of three Saudi juveniles facing execution in relation to protests spoke of their fears after their sons were moved to new prisons. Ali al-Nimr, Dawoud al-Marhoon and Abdullah al-Zaher have recently been moved to new locations, with no explanation from the Saudi authorities, and no indication of what may happen to them. Ali, Dawoud and Abdullah were all arrested in the wake of protests in 2012, and tortured into ‘confessions’ that were used to convict them in secretive trials.

Mohammed al Nimr, the father of Ali al-Nimr, tweeted that his son and Dawoud had been moved from Riyadh to Dammam prison, with no reason given, saying that they were “on death row with the sword over their necks.”

The family of Abdullah al Zaher – who has now been moved to a prison in Riyadh –said: “We are in agony wondering what will happen to him. Other governments keep saying they ‘do not expect’ him and the other juveniles to be executed, but where is the proof? We sincerely hope that the international community will demand the release of Abdullah and the other juveniles arrested at protests.”

Commenting, Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said:

“It is shocking that the Saudi authorities are still threatening to execute three juveniles who were arrested at protests, tortured into dubious ‘confessions’, and sentenced to death in flagrantly unfair trials. The British government and others have spoken of Saudi assurances that Ali, Dawoud and Abdullah won’t be killed – but this is cold comfort to the families who are terrified of what might happen, amid a surge in Saudi executions. Moreover, by incentivising British businesses to market security products to bodies like the Saudi justice ministry, the government is at risk of encouraging complicity with these terrible abuses. Governments that are close to Saudi Arabia – the UK included – must firmly demand the release of the juveniles without delay.”

This report prepared by Reprieve.