Saudi Arabia executed more people than ever in 2019

January 13, 2020

Image of Saudi Arabian flag

Saudi Arabia executed 185 people in 2019, the most in a calendar year since Reprieve began tracking executions six years ago.

Of these executions, which are officially announced by the Saudi Press Agency, 88 were Saudi nationals, 90 were foreign nationals, and 7 were of unknown nationality.

On April 23, 2019, the Kingdom executed 37 people in a single day, including at least three who were children at the time of their alleged offences:

Abdulkarim al-Hawaj was beaten, tortured with electricity and chained with his hands above his head until he ‘confessed’ to terrorism offences, after taking part in pro-democracy demonstrations. Mujtaba al-Sweikat was arrested at the airport on his way to study at Western Michigan University, severely beaten and convicted on the basis of a confession extracted through torture. Salman Qureish was denied basic legal rights and sentenced to death in a mass trial, despite interventions on his behalf by the United Nations.

At least, three other juvenile defendants remain on death row, at risk of imminent execution: Ali al-NimrDawoud al-Marhoon and Abdullah al-Zaher.

In April 2018, the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman, said the regime planned to restrict the scope of the death penalty by limiting the number of capital offences and introducing alternative punishments including life imprisonment. In a televised interview, he stated: “We’ve tried to minimise [the death penalty]… And we believe it will take one year, maybe a little bit more, to have it finished… We will not get it 100 per cent, but to reduce it big time.” In fact, the number of executions continues to rise under his rule. There have already been four executions in 2020.

Reprieve Director Maya Foa said: “This is another grim milestone for Mohammed Bin Salman’s Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom’s rulers clearly believe they have total impunity to flout international law when it suits them. A country that tortures and executes children should be a pariah state, not preparing to host the next meeting of the G20.”