A Jordanian man who said he was tortured for 12 days into signing a false confession was executed over drug charges in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, despite interventions from the UN and two British foreign ministers.
Hussein Abo al-Kheir, a father of eight who made a living as a driver for a Saudi Arabian family, was arrested for allegedly carrying drugs in 2014, but had long maintained his innocence, saying he had been tortured into signing the confession.
In late November, when al-Kheir’s execution appeared imminent, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights joined a group of British politicians, including Middle East Minister Lord Ahmad, who called on the kingdom to halt the killing.
At the time, Foreign Minister David Rutley told MPs in response to an urgent question that al-Kheir was “clearly” tortured, that his situation was “abhorrent” and the issue was raised “at the highest level”.
Four days later, Rutley asked for the parliamentary record to be struck, saying he had spoken in error.
On Sunday, al-Kheir was the latest of 11 people to be executed over the past eight days, raising concerns among those documenting death row cases that more were coming.
Since 2010, Saudi Arabia has executed nearly three times as many foreign nationals for drug-related offences which do not meet the “most serious crimes” threshold under international law, Reprieve and the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights said in a report earlier this year.
Rights groups and MPs have expressed concerns over the inability of the UN and UK to stop al-Kheir’s execution, with some criticising Foreign Secretary James Cleverly for failing to act publicly.
“The UK government knew Hussein Abo al-Kheir was at imminent risk but the foreign secretary failed to publicly call for his execution to be halted, despite his predecessors taking this kind of action in the past,” UK MP David Davis told Middle East Eye.
“The UK must signal it will no longer turn a blind eye to executions like these, and speak out strongly on behalf of others who remain at risk, including child defendants like Abdullah al-Howaiti,” he said. (MEE)