Amnesty: Saudi executions rise, reveal flaws in justice system

A report issued Oct. 14 by Amnesty International (AI) links the large number of executions in Saudi Arabia to flaws in the Saudi judicial system. The report, titled “Affront to Justice: Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia,” noted a significant increase in executions from 2006 to 2007, when at least 158 death sentences were carried out, and a relatively high rate of execution for migrant or foreign workers.

Malcolm Smart, director of AI’s Middle East and North Africa program, said:

The government’s continuing high use of the death penalty runs counter to the growing international trend towards abolition. Moreover, the death penalty is carried out disproportionately and discriminately on national or ethnic grounds against poor foreign workers and against Saudi Arabian nationals who lack the family or other connections that, fortunately, help others to be saved from execution.

The AI report pointed to several factors contributing to the high execution rate, including the closed nature of the Saudi judicial process, the imposition of the death penalty for relatively minor offenses and a lack of legal assistance for the accused. The Saudi Interior Ministry announced Tuesday that two more convicts had been beheaded, bringing the number of executions this year to at least 72, as a court sentenced three Sri Lankans to death for armed robbery and murder.

In a report released earlier this year, AI found that Saudi Arabia executed more people per capita than any other nation. According to that report, at least 1,252 people were put to death in 24 countries, with Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, Pakistan and the United States accounting for the vast majority of the executions. In July, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report criticizing a lack of legal protections for the 1.5 million migrant domestic workers in Saudi Arabia. Among other proposed reforms, HRW called on the Saudi government to amend the 2005 Labor Law to cover migrant workers. (Jurist, Oct. 15)

See our last post on Saudi Arabia.