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Amnesty: Executions surge in Saudi Arabia

August 25, 2015

Rights group Amnesty International has said Saudi Arabia has executed at least 175 people in the past year. The group warned that the kingdom's justice system, based on Islamic sharia code, is deeply flawed.

Saudi-Arabien Einreiseformular mit Hinweis auf Todesstrafe
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/K.J. Hildenbrand

Saudi Arabia executed at least 175 people in the last year, according to a report released Tuesday by rights group Amnesty International.

The report, entited "Killing in the Name of Justice: The Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia," said that Saudi Arabia had executed at least 2,208 people between January 1985 and June 2015.

The kingdom, following a strict interpretation of Islamic law, applies the death penalty to a number of crimes including murder, rape and drug smuggling. Saudi Courts also allow for people to be executed for adultery, apostasy and witchcraft.

"Saudi Arabia's faulty justice system facilitates judicial executions on a mass scale," Said Boumedouha, acting director of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa program, said in a statement.

The London-based rights group warned that the kingdom's justice system, based on Islamic sharia law, is deeply flawed and does not meet international standards.

Amnesty detailed secret trials, denying defendants access to lawyers and torturing people to obtain confessions. The rights group said at least 102 executions took place in the first half of 2015, compared with 90 in all of last year.

Arbitrary rulings

Most people sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia are beheaded. According to Amnesty, in some cases bodies and severed heads have been put on public display. Families of death row prisoners are not often notified about the executions until after they have taken place.

"Saudi Arabia's sharia law-based justice system lacks a criminal code, leaving definitions of crimes and punishments vague and widely open to interpretation," Amnesty said.

Amnesty said Saudi Arabia's legal system gives judges discretionary power in sentencing leading to "arbitrary rulings" in some cases. It urged Saudi Arabia to establish an official moratorium on executions and implement international fair trial standards in all criminal cases.

"Claims that the death sentence in Saudi Arabia is carried out in the name of justice and in line with international law could not be further from the truth," Boumedouha said.

bw/lw (AP, AFP, dpa)

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