Saudi Arabia 'executes one person every two days'

Rampant executions under King Salman's rule fuelled by justice system 'riddled with holes', says Amnesty

Saudi Arabia execution protest
Protestors demonstrate in Jakarta against the execution of an Indonesian woman in Saudi Arabia
(Image credit: Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia is executing prisoners on a massive scale and often without legal safeguards in place, Amnesty International has warned in its latest report.

The Muslim nation is one of the most prolific executioners in the world, and there has been a marked increase in state-sponsored killings since King Salman came to power in January.

Amnesty reveals that at least 102 people were executed in the first six months of this year alone - compared with 90 in all of 2014. Executions are taking place at the rate of one every two days.

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Between January 1985 and June 2015, Saudi authorities executed at least 2,200 people, nearly half of whom were foreigners. Amnesty says many of them were denied adequate translation services and were forced to sign documents they did not understand.

Despite the government's insistence that the death penalty is only applied to the "most serious crimes", it has executed people accused of a range of offences including drug possession, apostasy, heresy and witchcraft.

Amnesty highlighted the case of two sets of brothers from the same family who were killed last year after being convicted of possessing large quantities of hashish. They claimed that they had been tortured and that their "confessions" had been obtained after they were beaten and deprived of sleep.

The country's Sharia law-based justice system lacks a criminal code and is "riddled with holes", leaving definitions of crimes and punishments vague and open to interpretation, allowing judges to hand down death sentences at their discretion, the organisation says.

"The use of the death penalty is horrendous in all circumstances, and is particularly deplorable when it is arbitrarily applied after blatantly unfair trials," says Said Boumedouha, Amnesty's acting Middle East director.

"The fundamentally flawed nature of Saudi Arabia's legal system leaves the door wide open for abuse. The authorities are toying with people's lives in a reckless and appalling manner."

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