Beheading of 5 foreigners in Saudi Arabia triggers outcry from human rights campaigners

Reuters/Andrew Biraj

Reuters/Andrew Biraj

Human rights groups have condemned Saudi Arabia after the beheading of five foreigners this week. Experts warn 2015 will mark a dramatic increase in public executions, as 80 people have already been killed, compared to 88 in the whole of 2014.

Despite mounting international criticism from foreign governments
and human rights campaigners, Saudi Arabia has shown no
willingness to end public executions. On Monday, a group of five
men, sentenced to death for murder and theft, were publicly

The killings come about a month after Amnesty International
decried what it labeled as a “macabre spike” in
state-sponsored executions.

Adam Coogle, a Middle East analyst for Human Rights Watch, said:
“From January to the end of July 2014 there were 15
executions, but they finished 2014 with 88, which shows clearly
that the spike began last year and has continued,”
told the Independent.

Peggy Hicks, Global Advocacy Director at Human Rights Watch,
called the jump in beheadings “shocking.”

Amnesty International said the wave of state-sponsored killings
proves that the change of leadership in the kingdom does not mean
a change in how it views capital punishment, which is carried out
for a series of offenses, including blasphemy, treason, murder
and drug trafficking.

Indeed, since King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud ascended to the
throne in Saudi Arabia earlier this year, the outlook for human
rights remains grim, said Amnesty International.

READ MORE: Saudi Arabia execution rate ‘truly
unprecedented’ – Amnesty Intl

“Any hopes that the arrival of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al
Saud might herald an improvement in human rights in Saudi Arabia
have been crushed,”
said Philip Luther, Amnesty
International’s Director of Middle East and North Africa

Luther said the new king is overseeing an “ongoing
crackdown on government critics and peaceful activists, who
continue to be intimidated, arbitrarily detained and treated as

“The first months of his reign have also been marked by an
unprecedented wave of executions in a clear signal that the use
of the death penalty is thriving in the Kingdom.”

Coogle, however, was hesitant to blame the jump in executions to
King Salman’s accession in Saudi Arabia.

“Personally, I would hesitate to relate the spike to the
change of leadership,”
he said. “He certainly hasn’t
done anything to stop it but the high rate really began last
August. It could be an issue with a backlog of prisoners or it
could just be that they are sentencing more people to death.”

Excluding China, where statistics are not released, at least
state 607 executions were known to have been performed globally
in 2014, Amnesty International said in a report released in March, compared to 778
in 2013, a decrease of more than 20 percent.

The report showed a dramatic jump in the number of death
sentences handed down in 2014 compared to the previous year – at
least 2,466 compared to 1,925 – an increase of more than 25
percent. The watchdog said the change was mostly due to the
situation in Nigeria and Egypt, where hundreds of people were
condemned to death.

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