Saudi Arabian man beheaded and crucified

Amnesty International has condemned an execution in Saudi Arabia that saw a 22-year-old man beheaded and then crucified.

Muhammad Basheer bin Sa’oud al-Ramaly al-Shammari was convicted of kidnapping and raping four people in February 2009. He was beheaded in the Saudi Arabian city of Hail on Monday.

His severed head was then sewn back on to his body, which was later hung from a pole in a public place, an act known in Saudi Arabia as a crucifixion.

“Amnesty International opposes all executions, as a violation of the right to life and the ultimate form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment,” said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme. “In this case, the crucifixion of the condemned man’s body after his beheading adds to the sense of degradation and is repugnant.”

Very little is known about Muhammad al-Shammari’s trial. Death sentences in Saudi Arabia are invariably imposed and carried out after secret unfair trials.

An appeal court upheld his death sentence and crucifixion in November, as did the Supreme Court subsequently.

Muhammad al-Shammari did not have access to a lawyer during his trial and there were reports that he may have suffered from a psychological disorder.

If this was the case, his execution would have violated the UN Commission on Human Rights, which urges states still using the death penalty “not to impose the death penalty on a person suffering from any form of mental disorder or to execute any such person”.

Crucifixions of death penalty victims in Saudi Arabia are rare but this is the second such case this year, following the execution of Ahmed bin ‘Adhaib bin ‘Askar al-Shamlani al-‘Anzi in Riyadh on 29 May. 

Crucifixions take place after the beheading. The body, with the separated head sewn back on, is hung from or against a pole in public to act as a deterrent. The pole is sometimes shaped in the form of a cross, hence the use of the term “crucifixion”.

At least 158 people were executed by the Saudi Arabian authorities in 2007 and at least 102 people were executed in 2008. Since the beginning of 2009, a further 67 people are known to have been executed.

Amnesty International is aware of at least 140 people currently on death row. The true figures are believed to be much higher.

“We urge the Saudi Arabian authorities to come into line with the wider international community and order an immediate moratorium on executions,” said Malcolm Smart.