48 decapitations in 4 months: Saudi executions persist despite MbS charm offensive

48 decapitations in 4 months: Saudi executions persist despite MbS charm offensive
Despite apparent wide-ranging reforms in Saudi Arabia, the kingdom is certainly sticking to its death-penalty tradition, decapitating 48 criminals this year alone.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman has been lauded by Western media as the ‘great reformer,’ he’s even been given the catchy, friendly acronym –- MbS. Bin Salman has been praised for finally allowing women to drive, enter sports stadia and opening the country’s first cinemas in a generation.

Bin Salman has been busy too, he has recently been on a worldwide charm offensive, with millions of dollars being spent on an army of PR firms, selling the image of Saudi Arabia as a modern country looking to reform, and diversify the country's oil-dependent economy.

Yet some things don’t change. He continues to purchase a massive amount of weaponry from Britain and America while at home ‘the great reformer’ maintains the kingdom’s age-old practice of beheading people as punishment for serious crime.

Many of the 48 people who have been executed so far this year, according to Human Rights watch (HRW), have died for their involvement in non-violent crime while many more convicted of drug-related crime “remain on death row following convictions by Saudi Arabia’s notoriously unfair criminal justice system.”

In an interview with Time magazine on April 5, MbS said that the kingdom has a plan to decrease the overall number of executions but that this strategy did not pertain to those convicted of murder.

“Any plan to limit drug executions needs to include improvements to a justice system that doesn’t provide for fair trials,” HRW’s Sarah Leah Whitson said in a Thursday press release.

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According to HRW Saudi Arabia has carried out almost 600 executions, in which the condemned are beheaded using a sword, since 2014. Over 200 of these were for drug offenses. The rest were for crimes such as murder, terrorism, rape, incest and sorcery.

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