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Saudi Arabia: Execution of two Pakistani nationals is callous attack on right to life

Responding to the news that the Saudi Arabian authorities today executed two Pakistani nationals for drug-related crimes, the first such executions since the country’s Human Rights Commission announced a moratorium on the use of the death penalty for drug-related crimes in January 2021, Diana Semaan, Amnesty International’s Acting Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:

“This striking escalation in the country’s use of the death penalty this year reveals the true face the Saudi authorities are hiding behind the so-called progressive reforms agenda they are presenting to the world. Trampling on the official moratorium on drug related crimes, they arbitrarily took the lives of two Pakistani nationals.

“The lives of individuals on death row for drug-related crimes and other crimes are at risk. Regardless of the crimes committed, no one should suffer this cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

“Saudi Arabia must immediately establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty in the country. The authorities must review the cases of all prisoners currently under a death sentence with the aim of commuting their sentences or offering them a  fair retrial without recourse to the death penalty. They must also bring all laws and judicial practices in line with fair trial guarantees.”

Background

In January 2021, the Saudi Human Rights Commission stated that the country has enforced a moratorium on drug-related crimes, and that “the Kingdom and its justice system are focusing more on rehabilitation and prevention”.

Following this announcement, Saudi Arabia did not carry out any executions for drug-related crimes. However, there was no official change to Saudi laws, including the Saudi Drugs and Narcotics Control Law which provides that drug smuggling or related crimes are punishable by death under ta’zir (the discretion of the judge).

Since the beginning of 2022, the Saudi authorities have carried out 128 executions.