"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Four executions carried out in Saudi Arabia in one day

Public execution in Saudi Arabia
Public execution in Saudi Arabia
Four people have been executed in Saudi Arabia, just one day after an international report condemned the country's frequent use of the death penalty.

This brings the number of judicial killings so far this year to 130, compared to a total of 83 in 2014 - when Saudi Arabia executed more people than any country in the world, except China and Iran.

Riyadh diplomats claims the rise in executions is due to the appointment of more judges, which has then increased the number of cases heard in court.

They deny that increase in executions in 2015 is related to the the ascension of King Salman, who began his reign in January this year.

All four executions took place in different Saudi cities on Wednesday. Three were of Saudi nationals convicted of murder - in Asir Province, the city of Taif and al-Baha Province respectively .

A Syrian man was executed in the northern province of al-Jawf for drug smuggling.

This comes the day after Amnesty International published a highly critical 43-page report on judicial killings in Saudi Arabia.

The conservative kingdom has executed at least 178 people over the past 12 months, on average one person every two days, according to Amnesty.

Nearly half of the 2,208 people executed in the past 30 years have been foreign nationals, with many believed to have lacked sufficient Arabic skills to understand court proceedings.

Saudi Arabia follows a strict interpretation of sharia - Islamic law - and applies the death penalty to a number of crimes including murder, rape and drug smuggling.

Though not as common, Saudi Courts allow for people to be executed for adultery, apostasy, homosexuality and witchcraft.

People can also be executed for crimes committed when they were below 18 years of age.

'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

Most executions in Saudi Arabia are carried out by beheading, or in some cases by firing squad. In certain cases executions are carried out in public and the dead bodies and severed heads are put on display afterwards.

Often, families of prisoners on death row are not notified of their execution and only learn of their loved one’s fate after they have been put to death, sometimes through media reports.

The conservative kingdom, whose judiciary is composed of clerics, denies its trials are unfair.

Source: Mail Online, August 26, 2015


Rampant executions fuelled by justice system 'riddled with holes'
  • Death sentences imposed after unfair trials lacking basic safeguards
  • At least 102 executed in first six months of 2015 compared to 90 in all of 2014
  • Average of 1 person executed every two days, most by beheading
  • Almost 1/2 of executions in recent years are for non-lethal crimes
  • At least 2,208 people executed between January 1985 and June 2015
  • Nearly 1/2 of those executed since 1985 were foreign nationals
  • Juvenile offenders, people with mental disabilities among those executed

Hundreds of people have been condemned to death after being convicted in unfair trials under Saudi Arabia's deeply flawed judicial system, said Amnesty International in a new briefing published today.

'Killing in the Name of Justice': The Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia exposes the shockingly arbitrary use of the death penalty in the Kingdom, where the death sentence is often imposed after trials that blatantly flout international standards.

"Sentencing hundreds of people to death after deeply flawed legal proceedings is utterly shameful. The use of the death penalty is horrendous in all circumstances, and is particularly deplorable when it is arbitrarily applied after blatantly unfair trials," said Said Boumedouha, Acting Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

"Saudi Arabia's faulty justice system facilitates judicial executions on a mass scale. In many cases defendants are denied access to a lawyer and in some cases they are convicted on the basis of 'confessions' obtained under torture or other ill-treatment in flagrant miscarriages of justice."

Use of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia

Between August 2014 and June 2015 at least 175 people were put to death - an average execution rate of 1 person every 2 days.

1/3 of all executions since 1985 were imposed for offences that do not meet the threshold of 'most serious crimes' for which the death penalty may be applied under international law. A large proportion of death sentences in Saudi Arabia - 28% since 1991- are imposed for drug-related offences.

Nearly 1/2 - 48.5% - of people executed in Saudi Arabia since 1985 were foreign nationals. Many of them were denied adequate translation assistance during the trial and were made to sign documents - including confessions - that they did not understand.

Most executions in Saudi Arabia are carried out by beheading, or in some cases by firing squad. In certain cases executions are carried out in public and the dead bodies and severed heads are put on display afterwards.

Often, families of prisoners on death row are not notified of their execution and only learn of their loved one's fate after they have been put to death, sometimes through media reports.

Flawed justice system

Saudi Arabia's Shari'a law-based justice system lacks a criminal code, leaving definitions of crimes and punishments vague and widely open to interpretation. The system also gives judges power to use their discretion in sentencing, leading to vast discrepancies and in some cases arbitrary rulings. For certain crimes punishable under tai'zir (discretionary punishments) suspicion alone is enough for a judge to invoke the death penalty based on the severity of the crime or character of the offender.

The justice system also lacks the most basic precautions to ensure the right to a fair trial. Often death sentences are imposed after unfair and summary proceedings which are sometimes held in secret. Defendants are regularly denied access to a lawyer, or convicted on the basis of "confessions" obtained under torture or other ill-treatment. They are also denied the right to a proper, thorough appeal.

Saudi Arabia has vehemently rejected criticism of its use of the death penalty arguing that death sentences are carried out in line with Islamic Shari'a law and only for the "most serious crimes" and with the strictest fair trial standards and safeguards in place.

"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. Instead of defending the country's appalling record, the Saudi Arabian authorities should urgently establish an official moratorium on executions and implement international fair trial standards in all criminal cases," said Said Boumedouha.

The case of Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, a cleric from eastern Saudi Arabia and a government critic who was sentenced to death in October 2014, clearly illustrates these shortcomings. He was convicted of vague offences after a deeply flawed and politically motivated trial and was denied the chance to prepare an adequate defence. Some of the offences are not recognizably criminal offences under international human rights law.

"The fundamentally flawed nature of Saudi Arabia's legal system leaves the door wide open for abuse. The authorities are toying with people's lives in a reckless and appalling manner," said Said Boumedouha.

"If the authorities wish to show their commitment to rigorous fair trial standards they must implement reforms that will bring Saudi Arabia's criminal justice system in line with international law and standards."

Pending full abolition of the death penalty, Amnesty International is calling on the Saudi Arabian authorities to restrict the scope of its use to crimes involving "intentional killing" in line with international law and standards, and to end the practise of imposing death sentences on juvenile offenders and those suffering from mental disabilities.

Source: Amnesty International, August 25, 2015


Saudi Arabia 'carrying out one execution every 2 days'

More than 100 people were executed in the first 6 months of this year compared to 90 in the previous year, says a new Amnesty report

Saudi Arabia is carrying out executions at a rate of one person every two days, according to a new report.

At least 102 people were executed in the first six months of this year compared to 90 in in the whole of 2014, said Amnesty International on Tuesday.

Most executions in Saudi Arabia are carried out by beheading, or in some cases by firing squad. Child offenders and mentally ill prisoners are among those who have been killed.

The group said the death penalty was being disproportionately used against foreign nationals, many of them migrant workers with no ability to understand Arabic - the language in which they are questioned while in detention and in which trial proceedings are carried out.

Under the conservative kingdom's strict Islamic sharia legal code, drug trafficking, rape, murder, armed robbery and apostasy are all punishable by death. Rights groups have long criticised the system for its ambiguous nature and a lack of due process.

The kingdom is among the world's most prolific executioners, consistently featuring in the top 5 countries for capital punishment. The country recently advertised for 8 new executioners to cope with the upsurge in work.

Those beheaded this year include Siti Zainab, an Indonesian domestic worker convicted of murder despite concerns about her mental health. Jakarta summoned Riyadh's ambassador over her case; a rare diplomatic incident linked to Saudi Arabia's executions.

The interior ministry has previously cited deterrence as a reason for carrying out the punishments.

Death row prisoners and their families are actively discouraged from any actions which might draw attention to their campaigns, Amnesty said. They are sometimes given assurances that if they do not challenge the authorities' decisions or violations in the case, such as arbitrary detention and unfair trial, then they might be spared the sword.

A surge in executions began towards the end of the reign of King Abdullah, who died in January. The numbers have accelerated this year under his successor, King Salman, in what Amnesty has called an unprecedented "macabre spike".

In May, a job advert on a Saudi civil service website advertised for the services of eight new executioners. No special qualifications were needed for the jobs whose main role is "executing a judgment of death" but also involve performing amputations on those convicted of lesser offences, the advert said.

The Saudi record was "utterly shameful", Amnesty said. "The use of the death penalty is horrendous in all circumstances, and is particularly deplorable when it is arbitrarily applied after blatantly unfair trials," said Said Boumedouha, acting Middle East director.

Source: The Telegraph, August 25, 2015

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