Saudi Arabia says it cut executions by 85 per cent in 2020

  • Saudi Arabia says it cut executions by 85 per cent in 2020

Saudi Arabia says it cut executions by 85 per cent in 2020

The kingdom, which in recent years was a top executioner globally after China and Iran, executed 27 people last year, the HRC said.

However, in response to a report by the global watchdog Human Rights Watch, the commission said in October that the decree came into effect the moment it was issued.

The Gulf state, an absolute monarchy, has long faced criticism for one of the world's highest rates of executions and what human rights campaigners call an opaque judicial system. The change represents an 85 per cent reduction in the number of people put to death past year. compared to 2019.

When asked by The Associated Press, the commission said the new law ordering a stop to such executions came into effect sometime past year.

Nine months after Saudi Arabia vowed to stop executing convicted minors, the kingdom is yet to revoke five death sentences, a Reuters investigation has found.

Maya Foa, Reprieve's director, said that "the apparent progress being made in Saudi Arabia is clearly driven by a desire to clean up its global image", according to the joint statement.

Among those put to death that year by Saudi Arabia were 32 minority Shiites convicted on terrorism charges related to their participation in anti-government protests and clashes with police.

A Saudi official told The Washington Post in August that the kingdom was in the process of revising penalties for drug-related crimes and that a decision to abolish capital punishment for such offenses was expected "very soon".

Discretionary judgments for ta'zir crimes led to arbitrary rulings with contentious outcomes. Almost 40 percent of the roughly 800 executions carried out in the kingdom over the past five years were for crimes such as drug trafficking, according to Reprieve, which advocates for the abolition of capital punishment.

Britain-based campaign group Reprieve reported 25 executions in Saudi Arabia in 2020, saying it was the lowest figure since it began monitoring executions in 2013 but cautioned that the number could increase this year. The last execution for such a crime in the kingdom was January 14, 2020, according to cases monitored by ESOHR, James Suzano, the organization's legal director, said in a text message. "The moratorium on drug-related offences means the kingdom is giving more non-violent criminals a second chance".

The commission's statement did not specify a timeline for the implementation of the decree.

In 2018, Saudi Arabia announced a ban on capital punishment for crimes committed by minors and in 2020 applied the ban retroactively, according to the HRC, a government organisation.

Human Rights Watch Deputy Middle East Director Adam Coogle said the decrease in executions is a positive sign, but that the Saudi authorities must also address the country's horribly unfair and biased criminal justice system that hands down these sentences.

In April, Riyadh had announced a moratorium on the death penalty for offenders who were minors at the time of their crimes.