|Warrant for public execution in Saudi Arabia|
A warrant for a public execution in Saudi Arabia has emerged, shedding rare light on the death penalty in the country just days before the government hopes to be re-elected to the UN Human Rights Council.
The document, published on Twitter this morning (Tuesday), is marked ‘top-secret’, and contains instructions for the execution of a prisoner. It has since been reported that the execution went ahead.
The warrant shows the Saudi authorities ordering a doctor to be present at the execution, for the corpse to be taken to a hospital, and for medics to sign a document confirming that the prisoner is dead. It reads:
Urgent – top secret: To the manager of health in the Qurayyat governorate, it has been decided to carry out the execution of a prisoner (discretionary death sentence) at 9am in Retribution Square on Tuesday 24/1/1438 [Islamic calendar]. Therefore, please inform Qurayyat General Hospital to carry out the necessary procedure upon receipt of the prisoner's corpse from the municipality and to commission the forensic doctor to be present for the execution and to sign the minutes of the execution after confirming that the sentenced is dead [lit: until life is gone].
[Signed] Director of the Qurayyat Police, Brigadier-General Mufdhi bin Abdallah al-Khamees
Executions in Saudi Arabia are typically shrouded in secrecy. Warrants – and details of the procedure surrounding executions – rarely make their way into the public sphere, with beheadings usually carried out with no prior notification to the accused or their families.
Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s most prolific executioners. Research last year by human rights organization Reprieve found that, of those facing execution in the Kingdom, some 72% were arrested for non-violent offences, such as alleged drug crimes and political protest. Many of those arrested on drugs charges are foreign nationals, including migrant workers who were trafficked from countries such as Pakistan.
Several juveniles have been executed in Saudi Arabia this year, including Ali al-Ribh, who was arrested in school in 2012 for allegedly attending a protest. Three juveniles – Ali al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon and Abdullah al-Zaher – are currently awaiting execution on similar charges, having been tortured into ‘confessions’ and sentenced to death in secretive trials. Reprieve has urged the UK government to ask the Saudi authorities to commute their death sentences.
The leaked execution warrant comes days before Saudi Arabia hopes to be re-elected onto the UN’s Human Rights Council this Friday. Last month, it emerged that Saudi Arabia had misled the UN over its practice of executing juveniles, falsely telling UN child rights experts that it did not execute those who were arrested as children.
Commenting, Maya Foa, a director at Reprieve, said: “It is chilling to see the Saudi execution procedure laid bare. The gruesome details contained in this warrant only serve to highlight the shocking abuses that continue in the Kingdom. Many of those facing execution are exploited migrant workers who were arrested on non-violent drugs charges. Others – including juveniles like Ali al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon, and Abdullah al-Zaher – await beheading for the so-called ‘crime’ of political protest. Countries that are close to Saudi Arabia, including the UK, must urge the Saudis to commute the sentences of these juveniles, and end the sweeping use of the death penalty in the Kingdom.”
- The warrant can be seen here, while an official notice confirming that the execution took place is here.
- Reprieve’s research on the death penalty in Saudi Arabia is available here.
- Concerns over the role of international counter-narcotics programmes were reported last weekend in the Observer, here.
- More detail on the cases of Ali al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon and Abdullah al-Zaher is available on the Reprieve website, here
- Background on the Saudi government's claims to the UN, last month, can be seen here.
'Gruesome' execution warrant casts light on Saudi death penalty
An execution warrant in Saudi Arabia was published to social media on Tuesday, providing a rare insight into how the death penalty is implemented in the secretive kingdom.
The warrant, posted to Twitter, ordered an unnamed prisoner to be executed in "Retribution Square" in the northern town of Qurayyat at 9am (0700 GMT).
The order was signed by the local police chief Mufdhi bin Abdallah al-Khamees and it instructed the Qurayyat General Hospital to "carry out the necessary procedure upon receipt of the prisoner's corpse" after the execution had taken place.
A doctor was also ordered to be present at the execution, which in Saudi Arabia is typically a public beheading carried out by a masked executioner with one blow to the neck with a long curved silver sword.
The doctor was required to attend the beheading to confirm the prisoner's death.
British human rights group Reprieve said they had information the execution was carried on Tuesday as ordered.
Reprieve said the publishing of the execution warrant exposed the nature of human rights abuses in the kingdom.
"It is chilling to see the Saudi execution procedure laid bare," Reprieve director Maya Foa said in a statement. "The gruesome details contained in this warrant only serve to highlight the shocking abuses that continue in the kingdom."
Prior to the latest executions, Human Rights Watch reported on 19 October that Saudi authorities have executed 134 prisoners so far in 2016.
Many of those executed in Saudi Arabia are convicted of drug charges, while other crimes that carry the death penalty include murder, and less commonly apostasy, adultery and homosexuality.
Earlier this month Saudi authorities executed a prince for the 1st time in over 40 years, after the royal had been convicted of murdering another man during a brawl.
The execution of Prince Turki bin Saud bin Turki bin Saud al-Kabeer brought praise in some quarters within the kingdom, with government supporters stating the sentence demonstrated no one is above the law in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has come under increasing criticism for abuses as the kingdom stands for re-election to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
As well as highlighting a lack of women's rights, Human Rights Watch said on Monday that Saudi Arabia should not be allowed to sit on the council because of its ongoing war in Yemen, where its military has been accused of committing an array of war crimes.
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