Saudi Arabia executed record number of people in 2019, human rights group says

Increase in executions follows crown prince’s 2018 pledge to ‘minimise’ use of death penalty

Conrad Duncan
Tuesday 14 January 2020 18:13 GMT
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told 'Time' magazine in 2018 that he was looking into ways to reduce executions
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told 'Time' magazine in 2018 that he was looking into ways to reduce executions

Saudi Arabia executed 184 people in 2019, the highest number of killings since records began six years ago, according to human rights campaigners.

Research by Reprieve, an organisation which tracks human rights abuses, showed a record number of executions compiled from reports by the official Saudi Press Agency, including one example where 37 people were executed in a single day.

Press reports showed 90 of those killed were foreign nationals, while 88 were Saudi nationals and 6 were of unknown nationality.

The figures also showed that executions have more than doubled in Saudi Arabia since 2014, when 88 people were killed, with 2019 being comfortably the worst year for killings.

In comparison, 149 people were executed in 2018 and 146 people were killed in 2017, according to Reprieve.

The research come after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said his government was trying to “minimise” the use of capital punishment in the country in 2018.

“These latest execution figures expose the gap between the reformist rhetoric and bloody reality of Mohammed bin Salman’s Saudi Arabia,” Maya Foa, the director of Reprieve, told The Independent.

“As the Crown Prince travels the world meeting heads of state, his regime has been executing young men arrested as children for the ‘crime’ of standing up for democracy.”

Ms Foa also criticised the upcoming G20 summit in the capital of Riyadh which is set to take place in November this year.

“2020 must be the year that the Kingdom’s partners stop falling for the Saudi charm offensive and insist on an end to these egregious human rights abuses and violations of international law,” she added.

The event has already drawn criticism from the human rights group Amnesty International, who have refused to attend C20 meetings in preparation for the annual summit.

“We cannot participate in a process which is being abused by a state which censors all free speech, criminalises activism for women’s and minority rights, as well as homosexuality, and tortures and executes critics,” the group said in a statement.

Saudi Arabia has sought to improve its international reputation in recent years with “expensive PR campaigns” and high-profile sporting events, Amnesty added.

In a 2018 interview for Time magazine, the Saudi crown prince claimed his government was looking into reducing the number of executions and said he believe it would take about one year to introduce reforms.

However, the following year saw no reductions in the number of executions.

In April, the country carried out one of the largest mass executions in its history, in which 37 people were sentenced to death.

CNN reported that many of the men who were condemned to death had been sentenced on the basis of confessions which were obtained by coercion and torture.

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