Saudi Arabia: Two Executions a Week is Two Too Many!

Saudi Arabia applies the death penalty for a wide range of crimes, including drug offences, apostasy, sorcery and witchcraft. © Private

Saudi Arabia applies the death penalty for a wide range of crimes, including drug offences, apostasy, sorcery and witchcraft. © Private

Saudi Arabia is executing nearly two people per week this year: We say NO MORE!

A spree of executions that has sent 10 prisoners to their deaths since the beginning of the year in Saudi Arabia must be halted, Amnesty International said earlier this week.

The beheadings included Abdullah Fandi al-Shammari, who had originally been convicted of manslaughter, but was tried again on the charge of murder in proceedings that did not meet international fair trial standards, as well as Rizana Nafeek, a Sri Lankan foreign domestic worker.

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You Have Been Sentenced to…Paralysis?

After a violent fight broke out between two brothers two years ago in Saudi Arabia; one of the brothers was sentenced to seven months in prison during a trial where he did not receive legal representation. But the judge is thinking of adding another punishment — paralysis.

When one brother allegedly attacked the other with a cleaver, the victim was left paralyzed and in turn requested that the punishment for the aggressor resemble his injuries.  The judge in Tabuk, in the northwest of Saudi Arabia, has contacted several hospitals, inquiring as to their capacity to damage the man’s spinal cord in such a way to mimic the injuries of the victim.

One hospital reportedly said it would be possible to medically administer the injury at the same place on the spinal cord as the damage the man is alleged to have caused his victim. The King Khalud Hospital released a medical report saying they could injure the spinal cord with a nerve stimulant causing paralysis .

We have urged the Saudi authorities to not deliberately paralyze the man as punishment as it is a retributive punishment resembling torture.

Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment are absolutely prohibited under international law and violates the United Nations Convention against Torture to which Saudi Arabia is a state party.

Saudi Arabia must not sentence this man to deliberate paralysis and adhere to international law regarding torture and inhumane punishment.

Under the Veil of "Counter Terrorism"

Amnesty International has just released a report detailing the consistent human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia under the facade of combatting terrorism. Thousands of people have been arrested and detained in virtual secrecy, while others have been killed in uncertain circumstances. Hundreds more people face secret and summary trials and possible execution. Many are reported to have been tortured in order to extract confessions or as punishment after conviction.

Reported methods of torture and other ill-treatment include severe beatings with sticks, punching, and suspension from the ceiling, use of electric shocks and sleep deprivation. Flogging is also imposed as a legal punishment by itself or in addition to imprisonment, and sentences can include thousands of lashes.

Since the attacks of September 11th, Saudi Arabia has been under intense pressure by the West to take on terrorism as 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens. Abdulrahman Alhadlaq, a Saudi Interior Ministry official, told The Associated Press that Amnesty International’s assertions were “claims that have to be proven.”

Samah Choudhury contributed to this post

An Execution and Crucifixion in Saudi Arabia

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

But, given how arbitrary and disproportionate the US death penalty is, the gruesome execution that took place in Saudi Arabia Friday will probably go unmentioned.

Hemming and Hawing with Saudi Arabia

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

President Obama has added Saudi Arabia to the list of countries he will be visiting this June.  He reportedly will meet with King Abdullah to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Iran and terrorism.  The Arab Peace Initiative, designed by King Abdullah, would grant Palestinians an independent state, settle the issue of Palestinian refugees and create a more peaceful environment between Middle Eastern states. It has also been embraced by the Obama team. The trip reflects a new commitment by the US government to work more closely with Arab countries on issues of peace and power.

Peace in the Middle East is a noble cause for the Obama administration.  But as the Dalai Lama has said, “Peace can only last where human rights are respected.”

Saudi Arabia’s death row list is lengthy.  Juveniles have been sentenced to death and now executed after unfair trial proceedings.  There are also restrictions on freedom of speech and expression, with journalists threatened and censored by religious and political leaders alike.

While Saudi Arabia has made some strides on the human rights front, there is much more work to be done before a regional peace, built on respecting human rights, can stand.  President Obama should take this opportunity to build a relationship based on human rights respect.