89 in 5 months: Saudi Arabia continues executions

Reuters / Fayez Nureldine / Pool
A man was beheaded in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, with the convicted murderer's execution becoming the 89th case this year, according to an AFP count. The death toll has already overtaken the total for all of 2014.

Fahd bin Hussein Daghriri was found guilty in participating in the murder of a fellow Saudi citizen, AFP reported on Wednesday, citing an interior ministry statement published by the official Saudi Press Agency. Authorities executed the convicted criminal in the southern region of Jazan.

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The man was sentenced to death according to the nation's strict version of Islamic sharia law, under which such crimes as murder, rape, armed robbery and drug trafficking are punishable by death. Executions are mostly conducted by decapitating the accused with a sword in public.

The Gulf kingdom had already executed 88 people across 2015 before the newest case, both locals and foreigners. This month, five foreigners were executed in Saudi Arabia, causing international outcry, with human rights groups having condemned the country.

Daghriri's beheading was the 89th since the beginning of the year. In comparison, in all of 2014, 87 people were executed in Saudi Arabia.

The “fast pace” of executions in Saudi Arabia was deemed “very disturbing” by a UN special rapporteur.

If it continues at this pace we will have double the number of executions, or more than double the number of executions, that we had last year,” Christof Heyns who submits annual reports to the UN Human Rights Council and General Assembly, told AFP on Wednesday.

Observing that how, in a country of approximately 29 million, the number of people sentenced to death and executed is “very high,” Heyns said Saudi Arabia “is going against the stream,” while execution figures are decreasing in other countries.

The UN official called the practice “something which really doesn't belong in the 21st century,” adding that in the Gulf kingdom trials leading to beheadings are often carried out “in secrecy,” with lawyers being unavailable. “They do not comply with the standards of fair trial,” Heyns told AFP.

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Out of the 22 countries currently known to practice capital punishment, in 2014 Saudi Arabia was ranked third on Amnesty International’s list of countries that carry out the most executions, surpassing Iraq and the United States.