Responding to the execution of Hussein Abo al-Kheir, a Jordanian man and father of eight who had been on death row in Saudi Arabia since 2015 following an unfair trial in which he was convicted of a drug-related offence, Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:
“By executing Hussein Abo al-Kheir without even notifying his family, the Saudi authorities have yet again revealed their callous disregard for human life. Saudi authorities keep boasting that new legislative reforms bring human rights protections, yet their execution of Hussein following an unjust trial exposes their utter failure to follow through on these assurances.
“For years, Saudi prison officials held Hussein incommunicado, denied him legal representation and failed to investigate his complaint that he had been tortured into giving ‘confessions’ which were the basis for his conviction. Nobody should have to suffer such a torturous ordeal. The authorities must immediately return Hussein Abo al-Kheir’s body to his family so they can carry out a dignified burial.
“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 remove the death penalty from all laws, starting with the Saudi Drugs and Narcotics Control Law which grants the judges the discretion to sentence people to death for drug smuggling or related crimes.
“Saudi Arabia’s international allies must also make it clear that Saudi authorities cannot continue to execute with impunity, and they must speak out strongly in support of others on death row who may be at risk of execution.”
Since 1 March 2023, Saudi Arabia has executed 11 people, who were convicted on charges including terrorism, murder, rape, kidnapping and drug smuggling. In November 2022, Saudi authorities resumed executions for drug-related offences following a lull in such executions between February 2020 and October 2022.
Saudi officials arrested Hussein Abo al-Kheir, 57, in 2014 and later charged him with drug smuggling. He was sentenced to death in 2015 following a grossly unfair trial. His execution contravenes an October 2022 decision by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which found that he was being arbitrarily detained and called for his death sentence to be quashed as well as his ‘immediate and unconditional release.’ His execution also violates international human rights law which prohibits the use of the death penalty for crimes that do not meet the threshold of ‘most serious crimes’, which are crimes that involve intentional killing.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The death penalty violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and it is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.