Rights group says 'no excuse' for frequent Saudi death penalty use

Human Rights Watch hits out as Saudi authorities have executed 108 people since the start of 2016
Rights group says 'no excuse' for frequent Saudi death penalty use
By Staff writer
Sat 30 Jul 2016 12:14 AM

Saudi authorities have executed 108 people since the start of 2016 and is on course to at least match the number of executions seen in the Gulf kingdom last year, an international human rights group has said.

The year began with a mass execution on January 2 of 47 men convicted of terrorism-related crimes. Since then, authorities have executed 13 people for nonviolent drug smuggling, 47 for murder, and one for rape.

Human Rights Watch said Saudi authorities are on track to match the 158 executions in 2015, and have already surpassed the 88 in 2014.

“Executions are never the answer to stopping crime, especially when they result from a flawed justice system that ignores torture allegations,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

“There is simply no excuse for Saudi Arabia’s frequent use of the death penalty for nonviolent drug crimes.”

Of the 108 people executed so far in 2016, Human Rights Watch said 86 were Saudi citizens. Among the foreigners executed, three Jordanians and three Pakistanis were each convicted on drug smuggling charges.

International standards, including the Arab Charter on Human Rights, ratified by Saudi Arabia, require countries that retain the death penalty to use it only for the “most serious crimes,” and in exceptional circumstances.

The Death Penalty Worldwide Database, which collects information on executions across the globe, shows that Saudi Arabia has one of the highest execution rates in the world, and applies the death penalty to a range of offences that do not constitute “most serious crimes,” including drug offences and "sorcery".

Saudi Arabia trails only Iran in the Middle East for executing the highest number of people each year. Since the start of 2016, Iran has reportedly executed at least 216 prisoners, according to Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre.

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