Saudi Arabia executions doubled last year

November 10, 2015

Image of a shadow of a noose hanging on a cracked wall

Saudi Arabia’s government doubled its use of executions last year, according to reports, with many prisoners killed despite having been convicted of non-violent crimes.

Separate studies by the European-Saudi Organisation for Human Rights (ESOHR) and Amnesty International have found that 2015 saw the Saudi authorities carry out at least 151 executions. Of those, the majority appear to have been convicted for non-violent crimes, including drug offences. The surge indicates that the country is executing at least one prisoner every two days.

Last month, research by international human rights group Reprieve found that, of those identified as awaiting execution in Saudi Arabia, some 72% were convicted for non-violent offences – including attendance at political protests. Among those facing execution for protesting are two juveniles, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr and Dawoud al-Marhoon. Both are understood to be being held in solitary confinement in Riyadh.

The two juveniles were both convicted on the basis of ‘confessions’ they signed following torture, at secretive trials in which their lawyers were largely blocked from representing them. Reprieve’s research has found that the use of torture to extract ‘confessions’ is widespread in Saudi, with some prisoners on death row having been beaten to the point of suffering broken bones and teeth.

Commenting, Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: “This dramatic spike in executions should be cause for strong condemnation from the Saudis’ closest allies, like the UK and the US. Not only are we seeing an escalation in the number of prisoners executed in Saudi Arabia, the large majority of them are being sentenced to death for non-violent offences and the ‘crime’ of attending protests. Some, like Ali al-Nimr and Dawoud al-Marhoon, were just children when they were arrested and sentenced to death. The international community and Saudi Arabia’s closest allies must call for an end to the tide of senseless killing.”


Notes to editors

1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications [at] / +44 (0) 207 553 8140.

Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on: katherine [dot] oshea [at] / +1 917 855 8064.

2. Reprieve’s report on the death penalty in Saudi Arabia is available here