A new report by Amnesty International has exposed the shocking human rights record of the oil-rich Gulf nation, despite its continuing efforts to improve its image abroad
Saudi Arabia executed a record 184 people last year – including 37 prisoners who were beheaded in just one day after their confessions were extracted through torture.
Most executions in the Gulf state were for drug-related offences and murder, according to a new report by Amnesty International.
Last April saw a mass execution of 37 people in Saudi Arabia, 32 of whom were convicted of ‘terrorism’ charges following trials that involved confessions extracted through torture.
The oil-rich nation was blamed for the brutal 2018 murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi who was killed and dismembered at the country’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
The shocking incident proved highly embarrassing to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who has sought to modernise the conservative Islamic nation and improve its image abroad.
The report comes as a Saudi Arabian-led consortium is reportedly attempting a highly-contentious takeover of Newcastle United in a £300m deal, amid criticism over the country’s appalling human rights record.
Amnesty claims that Saudi Arabia appears to be escalating its use of execution and torture in recent years.
Last week it emerged that Saudi Arabia has executed 800 people in five years – twice as many as when King Salman came to the throne in 2015.
In a 59-page report Amnesty told how Hussein al-Mossalem was beaten with an electric prod and sustained multiple injuries including broken nose, broken collar bone and fractured leg.
Also put to death were teenagers Abdulkareem al-Hawaj and Mujtaba al-Sweikat, who were just 16 and 17 at the time of their arrests.
In all, the kingdom executed six young men last year who were children at the time of their alleged crimes – with one crucified and his body put on display as a warning to others.
Al-Hawaj was convicted of being a ‘terrorist’ after being tortured with electricity following an anti-government protest when he was 16.
Al-Sweikat was tortured into confessing ‘crimes against the state’, also after attending an anti-government protest.
He was held at the airport as he prepared to fly to America where he was due to begin studies at Western Michigan University.After being stopped, he was held for three years in pre-trial detention without charge, and subjected to beatings, foot-whipping and cigarette burns.
Also executed was teenager Salman Qureish, who was arrested shortly after his 18th birthday.
Clare Algar, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for Research, Advocacy and Policy, said:
“Saudi Arabia’s growing use of the death penalty, including as a weapon against political dissidents, is an alarming development.
“Also shocking was the massive jump in executions in Iraq, which doubled in just one year.
“In countries from Belarus to Botswana and Iran to Japan, executions were being carried out without any advance notice to the families, lawyers or in some cases the individuals themselves.
“The death penalty is an abhorrent and inhuman punishment, and there is no credible evidence that it deters crime more than prison terms.
“We are calling on states to abolish the death penalty. There needs to be international pressure on the world’s last remaining executioners to end this human practice for good.”
Others on Amnesty’s list of countries who carried out executions in 2019 were Egypt (32+), Pakistan (14+), Somalia (12+), South Sudan (11+), Yemen (7), Singapore (4), Bahrain (3), Japan (3), Belarus (2+), Bangladesh (2), Botswana (1), Sudan (1), North Korea (unknown number), Syria (unknown) and Vietnam (unknown).
The human rights charity also said thousands had been put to death in China, 251 in Iran including two 17-year-old cousins who didn’t even know they’d been sentenced to death, more than 100 in Iraq and 22 in America.
Overall executions fell globally by 5% to 2307, with another 26, 604 currently on death row.