Saudi 2022 executions break their own record

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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.

Photo : AP

Riyadh: The Saudi Arabia government executed 12 people in the span of just 10 days for drug and substance-related offences. Notably, most of these executions were carried out with a sword, a human rights organisation recently said in its report. The series of executions, most of which are beheadings, follows the record 81 executions by the monarchy in March this year. The beheadings came despite Saudi Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s vow to reduce harsh punishments and curtail death sentences, especially for non-violent crimes.

In 2018, Crown Prince bin Salman said his administration was looking to “minimise” capital punishment and only execute people found guilty of murder or manslaughter.

What makes these executions even more appalling is the fact that the convicts were beheaded for non-violent drug-related crimes. According to The Telegraph, the convicts included three Pakistani nationals and four Syrians, two Jordanians and three Saudi citizens.

Adding these executions, the total number of people executed this year reached at least 132, exceeding those of 2020 and 2021 combined, AFP reported.

The Jamal Khashoggi murder

It seemed like Saudi Arabia was willing to change its outlook on capital punishment after the US journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing on the order of the Saudi administration.

On 2 October 2018, Jamal Khashoggi, a US-based journalist known for his critical reportage of Saudi Arabia’s government was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Various conflicting narratives emerged after Khashoggi’s murder over the months with the Saudi government denying any knowledge about the killing.

However, later the Saudi government changed its tone and accepted that a preliminary investigation by prosecutors had concluded that the journalist died during a “fight” after resisting attempts to return him to the kingdom.

Why Jamal Khashoggi’s killing looked like the beginning of change?

After Jamala Khashoggi’s murder, the Saudi government was subjected to global pressure to alter its outlook on capital punishment and execution.

Following the worldwide condemnation, Crown Prince bin Salman in 2020 vowed that the kingdom will minimize death sentences and executions will be given only in violent crimes as prescribed in Islam. However, the recent beheadings are a testament that the Saudi Kingdom still has a long way to go to fulfil its commitment.

March 2022 mass execution

The beheadings follow the mass execution of over 80 men that took place in March 2022.

The Saudi Interior Ministry in a statement revealed the names of all the 81 men who were executed for crimes including murder and links to foreign terrorist groups, as well as the vaguely worded offence of “monitoring and targeting officials and expatriates.”

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