Saudi Arabia’s use of capital punishment has led to 100 deaths in the oil-rich country since the start of 2017, the Saudi Press Agency reported October 6. The 100th execution in the country this year was of a man convicted of murder.
That figure is approximately 10 percent of the total number of state-sanctioned executions to occur across the globe in all of 2016, according to data from the Death Penalty Information Center, a non-profit based in Washington, DC.
Crimes incurring capital punishment under Riyadh’s interpretation of sharia law range from renunciation of religious or political beliefs (apostasy), armed robbery, murder, rape, terrorism and drug-related charges, The Independent reports.
Fourteen Saudi nationals from its Shia minority community have been sentenced to death for protest-related crimes, Human Rights Watch reported August 10, at least one of whom was under 18 at the time of the offense. “Saudi Arabia’s public relations firms and management consultants have recently sold a reform narrative, but executions have only increased since Saudi Arabia’s [June] leadership change,” says Sarah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW.
“Executions are never the answer to stopping crime, especially when they result from a flawed justice system that ignores torture allegations.”
Mohammed bin Salman was tapped as crown prince in June, making him the new heir-apparent to King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. The 31-year-old reportedly told former Crown Prince Mohammad bin Nayaf, who held the title from 2005 to 2015, “I will always need your guidance and advice,” during a “choreographed exchange… intended to depict a unified royal family,” the Financial Times reported June 21.
Amnesty International’s Lynn Maalouf told The Independent that since the start of July, “the Saudi Arabian government has been on a killing spree with an average of about five people put to death per week,” adding that the measures indicated a “callous disregard for human life.”
In 2016, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child called on the kingdom to stop allowing the execution of children under 18 years of age.