UN Official: Rise in Saudi Arabian Executions ‘Disturbing’

Christof Heyns, the United Nations Special Raporteur of Extrajudicial Summary and Arbitrary Executions, recently spoke out against the rise in executions in Saudi Arabia.

“It is certainly very disturbing that there is such a fast pace of executions at the moment,” Heyns told AFP. “If it continues at this pace we will have double the number of executions, or more than double the number of executions, that we had last year.”

Officials executed 87 people in 2014. As of Tuesday, the government performed 89 executions in 2015.

He also claimed the executions push the Islamic kingdom backwards as more countries decrease the use of the death penalty. International law states the death penalty should only be used for murder. The majority of people executed in Saudi Arabia faced drug charges.

“So this is going in the opposite direction,” he continued. “It’s going against the stream.”

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Civil Service posted a job advertisement for eight new executioners. The job requirements included beheadings and amputations.

The government executed Awad al-Rowaili and Lafi al-Shammery after a court convicted them of smuggling amphetamines. They also executed Muhammad al-Shihri for murder.

In January, the international community lashed out at Saudi Arabia after officials beheaded a woman in Mecca in front of an audience. The video made the rounds on YouTube, but the company removed it since it violated policy. It showed men dragging Laila Bint Abdul Muttalib Basim, a Burmese resident, through the streets. Then four police officers commenced to “hold the woman down before a sword-wielding man slices her head off, using three blow to complete the act.” Basim screamed, “I did not kill! I did not kill!” the entire time. The men killed her without painkillers.

“One way is to inject the prisoner with painkillers to numb the pain and the other is without the painkiller,” said Mohammed al-Saeedi, a human rights activist. “This woman was beheaded without painkillers – they wanted to make the pain more powerful for her.”

The kingdom executed “at least eight Yemenis, 10 Pakistanis, Syrians, Jordanians, and individuals from Burma, the Philippines, India, Chad, Eritrea and Sudan.” Their interpretation of Islamic law allow courts to apply the death penalty for drugs, apostasy, rape, murder, and armed robbery. The spike in executions caused many to compare Saudi Arabia to the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL). The government claimed their executions are more “legitimate” than ISIS.

“When we do it in Saudi Arabia, we do it as a decision made by a court,” explained Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Mansour al-Turki. “The killing is a decision, I mean it is not based on arbitrary choices, to kill this and not to kill this. When you kill somebody without legitimate basis, without justice system, without court, that is still a crime whether you behead them or kill [them] with a gun.”

Middle East news site Middle East Eye tweeted a picture that shows similarities between Islamic State and Saudi Arabia punishments.

The Islamic State and Saudi Arabia kill people who commit blasphemy, acts of homosexuality, treason, and murder. Death by stoning is reserved for those who commit adultery. Saudi expert Ali al-Ahmed said their “absolute monarchy rely on the same ideology and system of religious interpretation in their approach to punishment.”


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