Mustafa Darwish, 26, was executed, according to his family, because of an image found on his phone during a crackdown on anti-government protestors in 2015.
Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry announced on Tuesday that Mustafa Hashem al-Darwish, who was 17 when he was convicted of participating in anti-government rallies in the Eastern Province, has been executed.
According to a statement released by the British rights group Reprieve, the family received no advance notification of the execution and learned about it online.
Darwish, a member of the Shia minority in Saudi Arabia, was sentenced to death earlier this month by a Saudi court. He was 26 years old at the time.
According to court documents, he was held in pre-trial detention for an extended period of time, was tortured, and was given an unjust trial.
Darwish’s relatives had expressed concern that his death sentence will be carried out “immediately.”
The family has asked British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to urge for Darwish’s release during his June visit to the country, although it’s unclear whether Raab brought up Darwish’s issue during his meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The execution took occurred on the same day as Ranil Jayawardena, the British minister for international trade, paid a visit to Riyadh.
According to Reprieve, Darwish “was placed in solitary confinement and beaten so badly that he lost consciousness several times. To make the torture stop, he confessed to the charges against him”.
Darwish recanted his confession during his trial, explaining that it was extracted under torture. The court was also aware of the fact that Darwish was a child at the time the alleged offences were committed, according to the rights group.
Jayawardena met with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary-General Nayef Falah Mubarak al-Hajraf, who “stressed the importance of GCC-British relations and the promotion of economic and trade cooperation within the framework of the Council’s joint action plan with the United Kingdom,” according to the Saudi Press Agency.
Police took Darwish’s phone when he was arrested with two pals in 2015, according to a statement sent by his family on Tuesday. He was later detained after his release in connection with a photo purportedly found on his phone showing protests from years ago.
“How can they execute a boy because of a photograph on his phone? Since his arrest, we have known nothing but pain. It is a living death for the whole family,” the family was quoted by Reprieve as saying.
Reprieve director Maya Foa said: “It is not enough for Saudi Arabia’s partners to ‘raise human rights issues,’ as British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab reportedly did on his recent visit to the kingdom. They need to raise specific cases, and make clear that executions for childhood crimes will not be tolerated.
Saudi officials have often said that the death sentence for juveniles and those convicted of crimes they purportedly committed as juveniles has been abolished.
Saudi King Salman issued a royal edict in April abolishing the death penalty for crimes committed while a minor, replacing it with a maximum term of ten years in a juvenile prison facility.
Mustafa Hashem al-Darwish is a child defendant who was executed without notice in Saudi Arabia today. His death means that the Kingdom has executed the same number of people in the first half of 2021 as they did in the whole of 2020.— Reprieve (@Reprieve) June 15, 2021
🇸🇦 This is a human rights crisis. pic.twitter.com/YmY3pTqiWK
Last year, Saudi Arabia’s state-backed Human Rights Commission (HRC) announced that, citing a royal order, the kingdom would no longer sentence people to death who committed crimes while children.
That decree, however, was not reported by state media or published in the official gazette, as is customary. Human rights organisations have expressed worries regarding its implementation, and numerous minors have previously been informed that they may face the death penalty.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has pointed out that the royal edict prohibiting the use of capital punishment for juveniles does not apply to all offences.
“Houdoud,” or major crimes with a defined punishment, such as terrorism, and “qisas,” or vengeance, generally for murder, are two categories under Saudi Arabia’s interpretation of Islamic law that still impose death sentences for juveniles.
In February, the Saudi authorities told the UN Human Rights Council that “anyone who commits a death-eligible crime as a child” will be subject to “a maximum sentence of ten years in a juvenile institution”.
“The execution of Mustafa al-Darwish once again shows that the kingdom’s claim to have eliminated capital punishment for childhood crimes is not true,” Reprieve said