It was reported this week that the final appeal to the Saudi courts by 17-year-old Mohammed al-Nimr had been dismissed, meaning his sentence to death by crucifixion for anti-government activities in 2012 is likely to be carried out.
In a statement on its website, Reprieve says the British government has had to backtrack on its claim that the bid to service Saudi prisons could not be cancelled because to do so would incur “financial penalties.”
Parliamentary records were instead amended to suggest the bid could not be stopped because “withdrawing at this late stage would be detrimental to [Her Majesty’s Government’s] wider interests.
“It is hard to see what British interests are strong enough to trump the principle that we should not be supporting the ‘crucifixion’ of juveniles,” said Maya Foa, Director of the death penalty team at Reprieve.
“The UK should have nothing to do with a so-called justice system responsible for atrocities such as this.
“It is extremely worrying to see the British government abdicating its basic human rights values in the interests of cozying up to the Saudis. British complicity in gross abuses such as these is unacceptable and has to stop,” Foa added.
The UK’s relationship with the Saudis has long been controversial, not least in terms of the UK’s practice of selling armaments to the regime.
In early September, Oxfam UK said the ongoing conflict in Yemen has been exacerbated by the UK government’s arms deals with Saudi Arabia, causing a terrible humanitarian catastrophe and potentially placing the government in breach of international law.
The war has seen Saudi Arabia, armed with US and UK weaponry, carry out airstrikes on Houthi rebels attempting to take control of Yemen.
International law states that arms deals should be prohibited if there is a risk they could be used to commit war crimes or human rights abuses, the charity said.