- 13 Nov 2015
- [International Secretariat]
- Region: KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA
- Topic: Abolition of the Death Penalty
At least 151 people have been put to death in Saudi Arabia so far this year –the highest recorded figure since 1995 – in an unprecedented wave of executions marking a grim new milestone in the Saudi Arabian authorities’ use of the death penalty, said Amnesty International.
“The Saudi Arabian authorities appear intent on continuing a bloody execution spree which has seen at least 151 people put to death so far this year - an average of one person every two days,” said James Lynch, Deputy Director at Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.
According to Amnesty International’s records, the last time Saudi Arabia executed more than 150 people in a single year was in 1995, when 192 executions were recorded. In 2014 the total number of executions carried out was 90 – meaning that so far there has been a 68% increase in executions over the whole of last year.
Almost half of the 151 executions carried out this year were for offences that do not meet the threshold of “most serious crimes” for which the death penalty can be imposed under international human rights law. This blatantly contradicts the Saudi Arabian authorities’ claims to apply the death penalty with the strictest safeguards in place. Under international human rights standards “most serious crimes” are crimes that involve intentional killing.
Of the 63 people executed this year for drug-related charges, the vast majority, 45 people, were foreign nationals. The total number of foreign nationals executed so far this year is 71. The death penalty is disproportionately used against foreigners in Saudi Arabia. Foreign nationals, mostly migrant workers from developing countries, are particularly vulnerable as they typically lack knowledge of Arabic and are denied adequate translation during their trials.
“The use of the death penalty is abhorrent in any circumstance but it is especially alarming that the Saudi Arabian authorities continue to use it in violation of international human rights law and standards, on such a wide scale, and after trials which are grossly unfair and sometimes politically motivated,” said James Lynch.
Concerns over the increase in executions have been further compounded by the apparent use of the death penalty as a political tool to clamp down on Saudi Arabian Shi’a Muslim dissidents.
Last month the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of a prominent Shi’a Muslim cleric after a politicized and grossly unfair trial at Saudi Arabia’s notorious counter-terror court (the Specialized Criminal Court).
This followed news that his nephew and two other young Shi’a activists who were arrested as juveniles after participating in anti-government rallies, also had their death sentences upheld. All three have said they were tortured and denied access to a lawyer during their trials.
Saudi Arabia also continues to impose death sentences on and execute people below 18 years of age, in violation of the country’s obligations under international customary law and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
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