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Tue 14 Oct 2008 09:52 AM

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Saudi executions average two a week, says report

Amnesty International voices concern as 71 are killed in year to end of August.

Executions in Saudi Arabia are being carried at an average rate of more than two a week, according to a new report by Amnesty International.

The human rights group said that the rate of executions in the kingdom has increased over the last few years. In 2007 at least 158 people were put to death compared with 39 executions monitored by the group in 2006.

So far this year Amnesty International has recorded 71 executions to the end of August, and the group has warned there could be a new surge of executions in the next few weeks following the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Saudi Arabia is also one of the few remaining countries in the world with a high rate of executions for women. It is also one of the few states to execute people for crimes while under the age of 18, a breach of international law, said to the group.

“We had hoped that the much-heralded human rights initiatives introduced by the Saudi Arabian authorities in recent years would bring an end to - or, at least, a significant reduction in the use of the death penalty,” said Malcolm Smart, director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

“Yet, in fact, we have witnessed a sharp rise in executions of prisoners sentenced in largely secret and unfair trials, making the need for a moratorium more urgent than ever.”

Smart urged the Saudi government to respect its obligations under international law.

“As an elected member of the UN’s Human Rights Council, the government should move quickly to reverse this ghastly trend and bring Saudi Arabia’s legal and judicial practices into conformity with international standards.

"It must ban the death penalty for children, ensure fair trials, address rampant discrimination, and curtail judges’ discretionary powers in the use of this cruel, inhumane, and degrading punishment.”