International rights groups say Saudi Arabia plans to execute 14 Shia civilians following a “grossly unfair trial” over political protests.
“The rise in death sentences against Saudi Arabian Shia is alarming and suggests that the authorities are using the death penalty to settle scores and crush dissent under the guise of combating ‘terrorism’ and maintaining national security,” said Human Rights Watch’s Sarah Leah Whitson on Tuesday.
Court documents seen by Amnesty International have revealed that a total of 38 defendants were detained and kept in pre-trial detention for over two years before their trial began.
For most of the time they were held in solitary confinement and their families denied access to them.
“The sham court proceedings that led to death sentences … brazenly flout international fair trial standards,” said Amnesty’s Middle East Director Lynn Maalouf.
“Death sentences based on coerced “confessions” violate international human rights law and are a repugnant yet all-too-common outcome in security-related cases in Saudi Arabia,” added Maalouf. “These death penalty trials fail to meet even the most basic requirements for due process,” she noted.
“The sentences should immediately be quashed,” she added.
Saudi Arabia carried out 153 executions across the kingdom last year. In the most stunning case of executions in 2016, Saudi Arabia executed on January 2 Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr along 46 other people in defiance of international calls for the release of the prominent Shia cleric and other jailed political dissidents in the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia carried out 158 executions, including 71 foreign nationals, in 2015. This number of executions in terms of annual basis in Saudi Arabia has been unseen since 1995.
Saudi officials execute convicts by sword and then dangle their corpses from a helicopter to make sure the public could see the result of the execution.
According to the Amnesty, Saudi Arabia has one of the highest execution rates in the world. Human Rights Watch has on multiple occasions called on the Saudi regime to abolish its “ghastly” beheadings.