Saudi Arabia: executions running at more than double last year's rate
Fears for brothers facing imminent execution despite unfair trial
The Saudi Arabian authorities must halt the use of the death penalty, says Amnesty International, following a significant increase in executions in the country in the last six weeks.
At least 27 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia in 2011, the same as the total number of people executed in the whole of last year. Fifteen people were executed in May alone.
Two brothers, Muhammad Jaber Shahbah al-Ja’id, 54, and Sa’ud Jaber Shahbah al-Ja’id, 47, are at imminent risk of execution. They were sentenced to death in 1998 by a court in Mecca for the murder of another Saudi Arabian man.
In April 2011 their sentences were said to have been ratified by the King and it is feared that they could be executed at any time, although no date is known to have been set. They did not have access to a lawyer during their pre-trial investigation or their trial. Furthermore, it appears that Sa’ud Jaber Shahbah al-Ja’id confessed to the murder under duress as the authorities reportedly arrested his elderly father in order to place pressure on him.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Philip Luther said:
“Amnesty International is opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances, but it is particularly appalling that Muhammad and Sa’ud al-Ja’id were sentenced to death after a trial in which they received no legal assistance.
“However strongly the Saudi Arabian authorities support the death penalty, they must at least recognise that no one should be executed after such problematic legal proceedings and commute their death sentences.
“Amnesty International is aware of over 100 prisoners, many of whom are foreign nationals, currently on death row.
“The Saudi Arabian authorities must halt this disturbing pattern, which puts the country at odds with the worldwide trend against the death penalty,”
“The Saudi authorities must immediately stop executions and commute all death sentences, with a view to abolishing the death penalty completely.”
Five of those executed this year were foreign nationals and Amnesty has previously documented the disproportionately high number of executions of foreign nationals from developing countries.
At least 158 people, including 76 foreign nationals, were executed by the Saudi Arabian authorities in 2007. In 2008 some 102 people, including almost 40 foreign nationals, were executed. In 2009, at least 69 people are known to have been executed, including 19 foreign nationals. In 2010, at least 27 people were executed including six foreign nationals.
Saudi Arabia applies the death penalty for a wide range of offences. Defendants are rarely allowed formal representation by a lawyer, and in many cases are not informed of the progress of legal proceedings against them. They may be convicted solely on the basis of confessions obtained under duress or deception.