Saudi Arabia’s shortage of executioners didn’t stop the kingdom from carrying out a record number of death sentences in 2019, according to the non-profit Reprieve, which monitors how KSA handles capital punishment.
According to figures provided to ABC News, KSA executed 184 people last year, including 90 foreign nationals. The most common crime committed by the prisoners who were put to death was drug smuggling (82 were executed for smuggling narcotics) while 57 were executed on murder charges.
That’s compared to a total of 22 executions in the entire US.
Notably, KSA has seen a rise in killings since 2015, when Reprieve first started keeping track.
In 2014, 88 people were executed, with that number nearly doubling to 157 executions in 2015. Executions stayed at around that level until last year, when the state killed 35 more people than they had in 2018.
As we reported at the time, the Saudis killed 37 people in a single day, including a student who was supposed to be on his way to college in the US, which prompted Rep. Rashida Tlaib to lash out at the kingdom.
It’s not publicly known how many prisoners are currently on death row in Saudi Arabia. However, among those awaiting "imminent execution" are Ali al-Nimr, Abdullah al-Zaher and Dawood al-Marhoon, all of whom were sentenced to death for their roles in anti-government protests during the Arab Spring, nearly a decade ago.
Ali al-Nimr, Abdullah al-Zaher and Dawood al-Marhoon, pictured above
Maya Foa, Reprieve’s director, called on the US and UK to call out the kingdom’s record of executions in the "strongest possible terms," arguing that that international pressure "can make a difference."
While that may or may not be true, we imagine neither country would be willing to jeopardize such a mutually beneficial relationship.
Even evidence that Saudi officials were involved in orchestrating 9/11 couldn’t do that.
Instead, the jump in executions will inevitably be used by human rights advocates to bash Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who has tried to enact liberal reforms like allowing women to drive while aggressively eradicating any whiff of criticism (for an example see what happened to dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi).
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