Saudi Arabia hiring eight new executioners as part of 'unprecedented spike' in killings

Amnesty International warned the new positions show the state has no intention of slowing the disturbing rise in executions this year

Saudi Arabia is advertising for eight new executioners, in a recruitment drive which leading human rights charity Amnesty International has warned is symptomatic of an “unprecedented spike” of judicial killings in the country.

An advert for the position, posted on the country's civil service jobs website, states that no specific qualifications are required for the brutal role which involves “executing a judgement of death” and performing amputations on those convicted of less serious crimes.

The application form describes the executioners as “religious functionaries” and says that recruits would be at the lower end of the civil service pay scale.

Executions in Saudi Arabia have been increasing at a startling rate this year, with official figures released by the state-run Saudi Press Agency revealing that a man beheaded by officials on Sunday was the 85th person to be put to death.

In contrast, 88 people were executed in the whole of 2014, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), while Amnesty said the number could be as high as 90.

The disturbing figures meant Saudi Arabia ranked below China and Iran and ahead of Iraq and the US for the number of people executed in 2014, according to Amnesty International.

Around half of the prisoners, charged for murder or drug offences, were Saudi, while the others were from Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Jordan, India, Indonesia, Burma, Chad, Eritrea the Philippines and Sudan.

Sevag Kechichian, Amnesty International's Saudi Arabia researcher, told The Independent that the advert is a “clear sign” the authorities plan on continuing the use of capital punishment.

"There’s already been an unprecedented spike in executions in Saudi Arabia this year - the recruitment of more executioners is a clear sign that the authorities have no intention of rolling back this execution spree any time soon."

“The scores of people who go to their deaths in beheadings every year in Saudi Arabia often do so after deeply unfair trials, including after ‘confessions’ extracted under torture.

"Saudi Arabia ought to be abolishing the death penalty and the post of state executioner altogether, not taking on more staff."

The country’s authorities have not explained why the number of executions has spiked so rapidly, but diplomats believe it may be because more judges have been appointed, meaning a backlog of appeal cases to be heard.

Political analysts say it might also reflect a tough response by the judiciary to regional turbulence.

Additional reporting by Reuters