Dubai: Saudi Arabia has executed at least 175 people over the past 12 months, on average one person every two days, according to a report released today by Amnesty International.
The 43-page report titled “Killing In the Name of Justice: The Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia” said that between January 1985 and June 2015, at least 2,208 people were executed in the kingdom.
An Associated Press tally based on official announcements shows that Saudi Arabia executed 109 people since January, compared to 83 in all of 2014.
The kingdom follows a strict interpretation of Islamic law and applies the death penalty to a number of crimes including murder, rape and drug smuggling. Though not as common, Saudi Courts allow for people to be executed for adultery, apostasy and witchcraft.
People can also be executed for crimes committed when they were below 18 years of age.
“Saudi Arabia’s faulty justice system facilitates judicial executions on a mass scale,” Said Boumedouha, acting director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa program, said in a statement.
In one case highlighted in the report, two sets of brothers from the same extended family were executed in August 2014 in the southern city of Najran after being convicted of receiving large quantities of hashish. Amnesty said the men claimed they were tortured during interrogation and sentenced to death largely based on confessions made after being beaten and deprived of sleep.
Amnesty said it reached out to the Saudi Interior and Justice ministries, but received no reply.
Most executions are carried out by beheading, though some are also done by firing squad. In rare cases, executed bodies have been displayed in public to deter others from committing crime.
Islamic law as practiced in Saudi Arabia allows for retribution in some cases, whereby relatives of the murder victim have the right to decide if the offender should be executed or pardoned. If pardoned, compensation or “blood money” is often paid to the family.
In one case reported in Saudi media in 2012, a father pardoned his son’s killer on condition he memorise the Quran before leaving prison.
Amnesty said almost half of those executed during the last 30 years were foreign nationals, many of whom lack the Arabic skills to understand court proceedings and charges. Almost a third of those executed were for drug-related offenses.
The rights group said Saudi authorities have denied its researchers access to the country. The London-based rights group said it researched cases for this report by contacting people before their execution and reaching out to relatives and lawyers, in addition to analysing available court documents.