UK Government highlights death penalty states in human rights report

London, United Kingdom (Reprieve) – The British Foreign Office has criticised countries including Bahrain, China, Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia over their use of the death penalty, including them on its list of ‘Human Rights Priority Countries’ as part of its annual report published today.

Bahrain and Egypt are both new additions to the list, which was previously titled ‘human rights countries of concern’ but has since been re-named.

The report raises concerns over the execution of juveniles – people sentenced to death for alleged offences committed when they were children – criticising Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in particular for this practice.  It specifically references the cases of Dawood al-Marhoon, Ali al-Nimr and Abdullah al-Zaher, all of whom were sentenced to death as children for alleged offenses relating to protests.

Noose Image Source: Fraser Mummery, Flickr, Creative Commons

Image Source: Fraser Mummery, Flickr, Creative Commons

The report also highlights the significant rise in the number of executions in Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, noting that in Iran, “the majority of those executed were convicted of drug-related offences.”  Human rights organization Reprieve has expressed concerns over the complicity of western states in such executions through the support they provide to Iranian counter-narcotics operations, but the report makes no reference to this issue.

Commenting, Maya Foa, Director of the death penalty team at Reprieve said: “It is welcome that the Government has denounced the dire human rights situation in countries such as Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. These three countries have presided over an unprecedented wave of executions this year – including of non-violent drug offenders, political protesters and those arrested as children.

“We welcome the FCO’s commitment to avoid British involvement in such abuses through cooperation with these countries’ law enforcement bodies. We now need to see real action and specific targeted interventions to back up these words – human rights must not be deprioritised in favour of other interests.”

This report prepared by Reprieve.