MoD promises new support to Saudi security bodies, despite imminent juvenile executions

(Reprieve) – The Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, has signed a security agreement with Saudi Arabia that appears to promise further training for Saudi police – despite their use of torture and the death penalty.

The move comes despite Saudi Arabia’s recent resumption of executions for protest-related offences, following unfair trials in the Kingdom’s special anti-terrorism court (the Specialised Criminal Court, or SCC). Several juveniles face imminent execution for attending protests, including Abdulkarim al-Hawaj, Mujtaba al-Sweikat, Salman al-Quraish, Ali al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon and Abdullah al-Zaher. A disabled young man, Munir al-Adam, also faces execution.

All seven were convicted in the Specialised Criminal Court on the basis of forced, false confessions extracted through torture by Saudi security forces. The charges against the seven include the chanting of slogans, and the use of social media and messaging services like Whatsapp.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon signed the agreement yesterday with the Saudi Crown Prince, saying the security agreement would “further cement… the UK’s long standing relationship” with the Kingdom and “allow Saudi Arabia to better protect her national security, including counter-terrorism, intelligence, training and education”.

Human rights organisation Reprieve has previously raised concerns that existing UK security cooperation with Saudi Arabia – including cybersecurity cooperation, and the training of Saudi police in investigation techniques – could contribute to the use of torture and the death penalty against peaceful protesters, including juveniles. In 2016, documents from the UK College of Policing, obtained by Reprieve, revealed the UK was training Saudi police in digital forensics skills that the College feared could be “used to identify individuals who later go on to be tortured”. The training was carried out without safeguards, it later emerged.

Image Source: CHRISTOPHER DOMBRES, Flickr, Creative Commons

Commenting, Bella Sankey – a Deputy Director of Reprieve – said:

“Michael Fallon is offering yet more support to a Saudi security apparatus that is currently stepping up its use of the death penalty against protesters. There are already grounds to believe UK training could have helped Saudi police identify protesters who were later tortured, and increasing numbers of juvenile protesters now face imminent execution. British ministers should be using their meetings with the Crown Prince to urge a halt to executions – not offering to prop up the Kingdom’s abusive security bodies.”