Saudi Arabia: Scheduled beheading reflects authorities’ callous disregard to human rights

The current surge in executions in Saudi Arabia is continuing unabated with another beheading scheduled for Monday 25 August, said Amnesty International today.

The planned beheading of Hajras al-Qurey will be the 23rd execution in the last three weeks — although more could take place on Saturday and Sunday. Earlier this week the organisation called on the Kingdom to halt all executions after four members of the same family were beheaded for “receiving drugs”.

“The execution of people accused of petty crimes and on the basis of ‘confessions’ extracted through torture has become shamefully common in Saudi Arabia. It is absolutely shocking to witness the Kingdom’s authorities callous disregard to fundamental human rights,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“The use of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia is so far removed from any kind of legal parameters that it is almost hard to believe.”

Hajras al-Qurey, 53, was sentenced to death on 16 January 2013 in the south-eastern city of Najran on drug-trafficking charges. He was arrested, together with his son Muhammad, on 7 January 2012 at the al-Khadra border crossing with Yemen, when customs officers suspected they were carrying drugs in their car. Muhammad was sentenced to 20 years in prison and 1,000 lashes.

Both men claim they were tortured during their interrogation and were denied access to legal representation until their trial. Hajras al-Qurey’s lawyer complained that the only evidence used by the prosecution to sentence his client was the coerced ‘confessions’, but the court dismissed his complaint.

“That people are tortured into confessing to crimes, convicted in shameful trials without adequate legal support and then executed is a sickening indictment of the Kingdom’s state-sanctioned brutality,” said Said Boumedouha.

There has been a surge in executions in Saudi Arabia since the end of Ramadan on 28 July, with 22 executions between 4 August and 22 August, compared to 17 announced executions between January and July 2014.

On Monday 18 August, four men – two sets of brothers Hadi bin Saleh Abdullah al-Mutlaq and Awad bin Saleh Abdullah al-Mutlaq along with Mufrih bin Jaber Zayd al-Yami and Ali bin Jaber Zayd al-Yami – were beheaded.

They were reportedly tortured during interrogation, including with beatings and sleep deprivation, in order to extract false confessions. They were sentenced to death largely on the basis of these ‘confessions’.

Their families were told to stop appealing to human rights organizations to save their children from execution.

“It is clear that the authorities are more interested in threatening victims’ families to shut them up rather than putting an end to this grotesque phenomenon.”

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception. It violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

The Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia in 10 Shocking Facts

More than 2,000 people were executed in Saudi Arabia between 1985 and 2013. At least 22 people were put to death between 4 and 22 August 2014 alone – more than one every day. The death penalty in Saudi Arabia is used in violation of international human rights law and standards. Trials in capital cases are often held in secret and defendants rarely have access to lawyers. People may be convicted solely on the basis of “confessions” obtained under torture, other ill-treatment or deception. Non-lethal crimes including “adultery”, armed robbery, “apostasy”, drug-related offences, rape, “witchcraft” and “sorcery” are punishable by death. Three people under 18 were executed in 2013, and so far in 2014 one has been sentenced to death, in blatant violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In some cases, the relatives of those on death row are not notified of the executions in advance.Foreign nationals represent a disproportionate number of those executed, largely because of inadequate legal representation and translation support. Almost half of the 2,000 people executed between 1985 and 2013 were foreign nationals.People with mental disabilities are not spared the death sentence. Most executions are by beheading. Many take place in public. In some cases, decapitated bodies are left hanging in public squares as a “deterrent”.