The war in Ukraine has put a damper on the execution of 81 men in Saudi Arabia over the weekend. International condemnation of the kingdom’s largest mass execution in recent times has been held back amid diplomatic pressure for Riyadh to increase oil production to lower runaway fuel prices.
The prisoners had been sentenced to death for terrorism and murder, among other crimes, and more than half of them were Shiites, a Muslim religious minority that includes between 10% and 20% of the population. Consequently, Iran has suspended the fifth round of bilateral dialogue with the Saudi government that was scheduled to take place this week in Iraq.
Among the eight dozen prisoners who were presumably beheaded on Saturday by the executioner’s sword, the official Saudi method of execution, also included seven Yemenis and a Syrian, according to Reuters. The Ministry of the Interior assured in a statement that some of those executed had “paid homage to foreign terrorist groups such as ISIS (for the English acronym of the Islamic State), Al Qaeda and the Houthis (Yemen’s insurgents)” or maintained “heretical beliefs”. ”. The Riyadh authorities insist that the defendants had a fair judicial process and legal assistance, and that their sentence was ratified by a royal decree.
Human rights groups question the serious setback experienced with mass executions, which exceeds the 67 executions registered in all of 2021 and the 27 in 2020. International Amnesty I have already denounced the increase observed last year after Saudi Arabia had held the rotating presidency of the G20.
Humanitarian NGOs also highlight that the promise of the crown prince, Mohamed Bin Salmán, to gradually reduce the use of capital punishment in Saudi Arabia to replace it with life imprisonment has been broken. The Saudi government announced last year the suspension of capital punishment for drug-related offences. He also promised to stop executing people who were minors when they committed the crimes.
From Brussels, the head of EU diplomacy, Joseph Borrell, He has condemned some executions that go against one of the principles of the European Union and which he has described as “a cruel and inhuman punishment”. The British NGO Reprieve (Pardon), which fights for the abolition of the death penalty, has been one of the most active in condemning the last collective execution. Her co-director Maya Roa, leads on Twitter the campaign for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to suspend an announced trip to Riyadh. The president intends to persuade the Saudi authorities to increase oil production to contain energy prices.
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The 2018 disappearance and death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi from his country’s consulate in Istanbul at the hands of security agents linked to the crown prince and the abuses against civilians committed by Riyadh-led forces in the war in Yemen since 2014 has severed many of the close ties that Saudi Arabia had with Western countries.
The collective execution of last weekend exceeds the bar of the more than 60 executed in 1980 due to the seizure by an armed group of the great mosque of Mecca, in which more than a hundred members of the armed forces lost their lives. security guards and as many Salafists during two weeks of clashes. In 2019, 37 inmates suffered capital punishment on the same day, most of them Saudis of the Shia confession. In 2020, only Iran, Egypt and Iraq surpassed Saudi Arabia in the number of executions. China does not provide data.