On Friday, a ghastly execution took place in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh, involving the decapitation and subsequent public crucifixion of Ahmed bin ‘Adhaib bin ‘Askar al-Shamlani al-’Anzi, who was executed on a number of charges, including murder, abduction and homosexual intercourse. This comes right before President Barack Obama’s trip to the Middle East and Europe, set to begin in Saudi Arabia tomorrow. While the main goal of the President’s visit to Riyadh may be to garner King Abdullah’s support for a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and to discuss regional policy towards Iran, Obama’s trip COULD also be an excellent opportunity for the President to bring attention to Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses, including the country’s frequent executions administered for a large variety of offenses, including many non-violent ones (see the Amnesty International UK report on Obama’s trip to the Middle East).
The vicious nature of Ahmed bin ‘Adhaib bin ‘Askar al-Shamlani al-’Anzi’s execution showcases the excessive cruelty of capital punishment in Saudi Arabia and also brings up important questions regarding human rights violations related to the detention and mistreatment of prisoners in the Kingdom. President Obama COULD use this recent execution to highlight concerns regarding the brutality of Saudi Arabia’s death penalty, its widespread use and the secretive nature of trial proceedings in that country. He COULD point to the fact that executions in Saudi Arabia are often disproportionately directed towards non-Saudi citizens.