HRW denounces current executions in Saudi, ‘dark stain’ on their records
Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth - AP

CAIRO: Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the current “surge in executions” in Saudi Arabia, describing it as a “dark stain on the kingdom’s human rights record,” according to their Thursday statement.

Since Aug. 4, about 18 citizens were sentenced to death by beheading, including at least eight for nonviolent crimes. Most were executed likely for charges of drug smuggling, sorcery, apostasy, terrorism, and threatening the country’s stability and national security, according to HRW.

“Any execution is appalling, but executions for crimes such as drug smuggling or sorcery that result in no loss of life are particularly egregious,” Middle East and North Africa director at HRW Sarah Leah Whitson said. “There is simply no excuse for Saudi Arabia’s continued use of the death penalty, especially for these types of crimes.”

Death penalties are highly condemned worldwide by many international NGOs and governments, who called to reduce the sentence and to be used only under certain circumstances and charges.

The U.N. issued a decision last June banning all countries world from using the death penalty as punishment, although it is not obligated to every country, such as Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.

“Saudi Arabia and the UAE refused the U.N.’s decision. The ban is not obligatory to any country members, since Arab nations have different sets of laws. I think the U.N.’s ban aimed to encourage these countries to try and eliminate the death sentence in the future,” Egyptian lawyer Khaled Abu Bakr told Youm7 in June.

HRW reported that Saudi Arabia has one the highest rates of executing with at least 34 beheadings in 2014, 19 of them during Aug. 4 to 20. Saudi Arabia executed at least 78 people in 2013, according to AFP.

HRW recently issued another statement about Saudi prisoner, activist Waleed Abu al-Khair, who was detained and charged for calling for human rights. He was considered the first to be trialed by the anti-terrorism law system, according to his wife Samar Badwy.

He was transferred by force to a prison 1,000 kilometers away from his family and sentenced 15 years in jail for charges relating to threatening national security, according to Amnesty International in July.

Raif Badawi, an internet blogger, was sentenced to 10 years in jail, 1,000 lashes, and a million Riyal fine for insulting Islam and setting up a liberal web forum, according to BBC in May.

A business woman was reported to be jailed for a month and whipped 50 times for shouting at the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice and calling them liars, according to Al-Madina Saudi newspaper Sunday.

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