Saudi Arabia executes 100th prisoner in 6 months

AFP Photo / STR
Saudi Arabia has beheaded a Syrian drug trafficker, rocketing the number of this year’s executions in the Kingdom to 100. This figure is already more than the 87 sentenced and put to death in the country during the whole of last year.

The execution took place on Monday in the northern region of Jawf. Syrian Ismael al-Tawm smuggled "a large amount of banned amphetamine pills into the kingdom,” the Saudi Interior Ministry said in a statement, as cited by AFP.

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

The 100th execution has surpassed the 87 recorded by AFP in 2014, but is still some way below the highest figure of 192, recorded by the human rights group Amnesty International in 1995. The watchdog has been scathing of the Kingdom’s human rights record, saying they “fall far short” of global norms.

“Almost half of the executions carried out so far this year have been for drug-related offences, which don’t fall into a recognized international category of ‘most serious crimes,’ and the use of the death penalty for such offences violates international law,” a statement on Amnesty International’s website read.

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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 May 27.

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

Saudi Arabia is one of the top three executioners in the world and is only surpassed by China and Iran. The most common way of executing prisoners is through beheading, which often takes place in public squares. Occasionally, some prisoners are shot by firing squad in some southern provinces.