According to a human rights organisation, in November, 15 people were beheaded in less than two weeks. Director of Campaign Group Reprieve, Maya Foa said at the end of last year: “Mohammed bin Salman has repeatedly touted his vision of progress, committing to reducing executions and ending the death penalty for drug offences.
“But as a bloody year of executions draws to a close, the Saudi authorities have begun executing drug offenders again, in large numbers and in secret.”
According to data from the human rights group, since 2010, over 1,000 executions have taken place in the Kingdom.
In 2018, the Crown Prince said on the international stage that he would aim to curb the use of the death penalty.
He vowed to halt executions of child offenders and the death penalty for those charged with non-violent drug offences and reserve the penalty for “most serious” crimes in line with international law.
However, it was found that 90 out of the 147 executions last year were people charged with non-violent crimes.
Ms Foa said: “In the last seven years, the Saudi regime under King Salman and MBS has executed more than 1,000 people, including many whose only ‘crime’ was to stand up for basic democratic freedoms.”
According to data from the campaign group, an average of 129.5 executions have been carried out in Saudi Arabia between 2015 and 2022.
This 82 percent increase in executions is at odds with bin Salman’s aim to reduce executions and modernise the strict Islamic society.
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Former lawyer Taha al-Hajji who works at the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights commented on the “imaginary reforms”.
“The doubling of the number of executions reveals the deception and tricks used by the Saudi government to deceive the world with imaginary reforms, which it markets with its huge media machine and public companies that paint MBS as a reformer,” he said.
While human rights groups attempt to keep track of those sentenced to capital punishment, the true numbers are unknown and statistics should be considered underestimates.
Since 2010, 15 executions of children have been discovered with 11 of these happening after 2015.
According to Reprieve, a number of child defendants are at risk of the death penalty for offences such as chanting, attending funerals, and involvement with terror groups.
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The group added that Saudi Arabia’s use of torture is “endemic” while also noting the unjust trials which are conducted behind closed doors.
Family members of those who have been executed have said that they have not known of the fate of their relatives until they see a notice on state news.
They added that the bodies are never returned to the family.
Yasser al-Khayat’s brother was killed in a mass execution last year and he said: “The death penalty in Saudi Arabia is a weapon of revenge and intimidation, not a punishment issued by the judiciary.
“This is what years of suffering has taught us.”
Mohammed bin Salman is also thought to have ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.