The United Nations human rights office expressed alarm at the significant
increase in Saudi Arabia’s use of capital punishment in the past year.
According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the
number of executions in the country almost tripled last year compared with 2010.
“We call on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to respect international standards
guaranteeing due process and the protection of the rights of those facing the
death penalty, to progressively restrict the use of the death penalty and to
reduce the number of offences for which it may be imposed,” OHCHR spokesperson
Rupert Colville told
reporters in Geneva.
“What is even more worrying is that court proceedings often reportedly fall far
short of international fair trial standards, and the use of torture as a means
to obtain confessions appears to be rampant,” Mr. Colville added.
Saudi Arabia applies the death penalty for a wide range of offences, including
the charge of sorcery and witchcraft, for which a woman was executed last month.
OHCHR also expressed grave concern at the recent sentencing of six men convicted
on charges of highway robbery. The men were condemned to “cross amputation” – a
form of punishment which involves the amputation of the men’s right hands and
“We call on the authorities to halt the use of such cruel, inhuman, degrading
punishment,” Mr. Colville continued, noting that as a party to the Convention
against Torture, Saudi Arabia is “bound by the absolute prohibition” against the
use of torture and other forms of cruel punishment.
Last October, OHCHR voiced deep distress over the execution of 10 men who were
publicly beheaded in the country’s capital, Riyadh, while underscoring that
about 140 of the 193 UN Member States are now believed to have either abolished
the death penalty or introduced a moratorium.