The Saudi Arabian authorities executed a man today, bringing the total number of people put to death so far in 2017 to 100, with 60 people executed in the past three months alone, said Amnesty International.
“Since July 2017, the Saudi Arabian government has been on an execution spree with an average of five people put to death per week. This sets the country firmly on track to remain one of the most prolific executioners on the planet,” said Lynn Maalouf, Director of Research for Amnesty International in the Middle-East.
“If the Saudi authorities are truly intent on making reforms, they must immediately establish an official moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolishing the death penalty completely.”
Forty percent of the executions carried out so far this year were related to drug-related offences, which do not fall into the category of "most serious crimes". The use of the death penalty for such offences violates international human rights law.
Many people in Saudi Arabia sentenced to death and executed are charged guilty following seriously flawed court proceedings that routinely fall far short of international fair trial standards. They are often convicted solely on the basis of “confessions” obtained under torture and other ill-treatment, denied legal representation in trials which are held in secret, and are not kept informed of the progress of the legal proceedings in their case.
For example, on 13 September Said al-Sai’ari was executed in the city of Najran, in the southwest of Saudi Arabia. He was found guilty of the murder of another Saudi Arabian man, by the same court that concluded that there was not enough evidence to convict him.
“Said al-Sai’ari was put to death in spite of the lack of evidence against him. This just shows how facile it is for the Saudi Arabian authorities to resort to this inhumane, and more crucially, irreversible punishment,” said Lynn Maalouf.
Death penalty as a tool to crush dissent
“The Saudi authorities have been using the death penalty as a tool to crush dissent and rein in minorities with callous disregard for human life. They should immediately quash these sentences and ensure that all trials meet international fair trial standards without recourse to the death penalty” said Lynn Maalouf.
At least 33 members of Saudi Arabia’s Shi’a Muslim community currently face the death penalty. All were accused of activities deemed a risk to national security. Among them are Ali al-Nimr, Abdullah al-Zaher, Dawood al-Marhoon who were arrested for alleged offences committed when they were under 18 and who said that they were tortured in order to make them “confess”. Last month the family of another young man Abdulkareem al-Hawaj were informed by court officials that the Supreme Court had upheld his death sentence for offences related to his involvement in anti-government protests. Al-Hawaj was only 16 when he took part in the protests; he has exhausted all his appeals and can be executed as soon as the King ratifies his sentence. They are all at imminent risk of execution.
On 11 July, Yusuf al-Mushaikhass along with three other Shi’a men were executed in the country’s Eastern Province of Qatif for terror-related offences in connection with their participation in anti-government protests between 2011 and 2012. He was convicted following a grossly unfair trial which hinged largely on a “confession” obtained through torture.
The families of the 14 Shi’a men accused of protest-related crimes and whose death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court on 24 July live in the fear of receiving at any time the horrific news of the execution of their relatives.
BackgroundSaudi Arabia uses the death penalty for a wide range of offences that are not accepted as the “most serious crimes” under international human rights law, which are limited to crimes involving intentional killings.
Saudi Arabia is one of the top executioners in the world, with more than 2,000 people executed between 1985 and 2016.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution.
Published on Amnesty International on October 2, 2017
By Daniel Bellut
From batons with metal spikes and electric shock belts to chemicals used in executions, tools of death and pain are still traded across the globe. European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom is aiming to end the sale of goods used for torture and the death penalty. More than 50 countries signed on to a joint declaration at the UN headquarters in New York on Monday calling for broader cooperation in restricting the export of these goods, as well as monitoring trade flows and exchange practices.
DW: How did the global "Alliance for Torture-Free Trade" come about?
Cecilia Malmstrom: For a long time, the European Union has already had very thorough legislation. We were interested in broadening that legislation and applying it on a global scale. After a while, this idea turned into a joint effort with Argentina and Mongolia. Argentina had already had legislation in place that was somewhat similar to measures in the EU. Mongolia was very enthusiastic about the alliance, as they recently abolished the death penalty. Today, there are about 57 countries signing up and I am sure further countries might be interested in joining the alliance in the future.
What is the personal motivation for a trade commissioner to launch an anti-torture alliance?
During my mandate I have always pushed for trade that reflects the values of the European Union. Trade is good for the economy, for the people and for the companies of the EU, but it can never be done at the expense of fundamental human rights principles. That means we do not respect the death penalty and torture. If you can buy products with the express purpose of killing or torturing people, that is contrary to the principle of human rights.
Why is the European Commission trying to tackle the issue of torture around the world through a trade-based approach?
According to international law, torture is forbidden, but it is quite obvious that many countries are not following the law. The practice of torture continues. If you want to torture somebody, you could simply use a pencil or a lighter. So, our alliance will not be able to completely eradicate torture. It is not the only way, but a very concrete way to limit such inhumane practices. Also, it will be an important political symbol that will show that countries across the world no longer accept torture and the death penalty.
More than 50 countries are joining the alliance. However, global superpowers like the US and China are still carrying out the death penalty. Will they sign on too?
No. The event today is open to anybody. But the US is not taking part in the launch. They cannot sign up to the alliance, as we only accept countries that have outlawed the death penalty. But if representatives of the United States want to come to listen, they are welcome.
Is the launch of an alliance for torture-free trade in line with the principles and values of the European Union?
Yes. It is indeed based on the values of EU laws. We have discovered that many countries across the world share these values and want to work with us. We have to make clear that our alliance goes beyond simply a declaration.
What would be the ultimate goal for the future of the alliance?
After the launch the ultimate goal is to create a UN convention, but that takes several years. That is just the beginning and a lot of work lies in front of us.
Published on Deutsche Welle on September 18, 2017.