Saudi Arabia executions: 'Drastic' reduction reported in 2020

20 Janvier, 2021, 02:24 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Saudi Arabia says it executed 27 people in 2020, the lowest number in years, rights groups say

The Saudi government's Human Rights Commission (HRC) said it documented 27 executions in 2020, a decrease of 85 percent over the previous year due in part to a moratorium on the death penalty for drug-related offenses.

"The Commission welcomes this news as a sign that the kingdom and its justice system are focusing more on rehabilitation and prevention than exclusively on punishment", HRC president Awwad Alawwad said in a statement.

But months later, the Saudi government has not announced any official change in penalties for drug-related offenses and has yet to publish a royal decree that would formalize the moratorium on child executions, according to Reprieve and ESOHR. Groups such as Human Rights Watch and the European-Saudi Organization for Human Rights fear that loopholes could still allow judges to impose the capital penalty.

Reuters established the status of three of the five individuals through HRC statements but could not independently verify the other two.

The government's Center for International Communications (CIC) dismissed the concerns, telling Reuters that the royal decree would be applied retroactively to all cases where an individual was sentenced to death for offenses committed under the age of 18.

Saudi Arabia on Monday reported a sharp drop in executions in 2020, as the kingdom seeks to blunt worldwide criticism of its human rights record.

Its de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known internationally as MbS, enjoyed strong support from U.S. President Donald Trump.

The announcement comes as U.S. president-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia must immediately end all executions and death sentences for non-violent crimes.

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Saudi Arabia carries out executions mainly by beheading and sometimes in public.

Biden officials declined to comment for this article, but referred Reuters to an earlier statement saying the new administration would reassess US ties with Saudi Arabia.

They include Ali al-Nimr, Dawoud al-Marhoun, and Abdullah al-Zaher, who were aged between 15 and 17 when they were arrested in connection with anti-government protests by the country's minority Shia Muslim community.

The AP previously reported that Saudi Arabia previous year also ordered an end to the death penalty for crimes committed by minors and ordered judges to end the controversial practice of public flogging, replacing it with jail time, fines or community service. The last execution for such a crime in the kingdom was January 14, 2020, according to cases monitored by ESOHR, James Suzano, the organization's legal director, said in a text message.

Their lawyers could not immediately be reached for comment.

In the past, Saudi Arabia's frequent use of the death penalty, including in mass executions, had earned the kingdom worldwide criticism and notoriety as a global leader in capital punishment, along with China and Iran. The CIC did not comment when asked whether this figure was accurate.

The Gulf state, an absolute monarchy, has long faced criticism for one of the world's highest rates of executions and what human rights campaigners call an opaque judicial system.

These crimes are not clearly defined in the Koran or accompanying Hadiths and so punishments are left to judges' discretion, and can amount to death.

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