Saudi Arabia has begun a wave of executions for drug offences, despite promises to cut the use of the death penalty for non-violent crimes.
Fifteen people have been beheaded in the country in the last fortnight, including a Syrian this morning.
The killings mark an end to an informal moratorium on the use of the death penalty for drug offences imposed in 2020. That initially led to a sharp drop in the number of executions, the high rate of which has been particularly damaging for Saudi Arabia’s image.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had also suggested in interviews that he wanted to restrict the use of the ultimate sanction to murderers.
Reprieve, a group that campaigns against the death penalty, said it was particularly concerned that a Jordanian named Hussein Abo al-Kheir, who was convicted for trying to smuggle drugs into the country, had been moved into an area of his prison that is usually set aside for those about to be executed.
It said he strongly denied the charges and that his conviction had been deemed unsafe by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
“The alarming rise in executions for drug offences in Saudi Arabia in recent days is at odds with the repeated promises by Bin Salman to reduce the scope of the death penalty, and the moratorium on executions for drug offences announced by Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights Commission,” the group said.
“We are calling on the international community to ask the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to immediately stay Hussein’s execution, and impose a formal moratorium be put in place on executions for drug offences.”
Read the full story at the Times.