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Rate of executions in Saudi Arabia almost doubles under Mohammed bin Salman | Saudi Arabia

According to the report, the number of executions carried out by Saudi Arabia nearly doubled during the rule of de facto leader Mohammed bin Salman, and the past six years have been among the bloodiest in the Kingdom’s modern history.

Death penalty rates are at historically high levels, despite the push for modernization with sweeping reforms and a semblance of individual freedoms. Activist groups say the price of change has been high: total suppression of the crown prince’s political opponents and zero tolerance for dissent.

New data shows that Prince Mohammed’s promises to rein in executions have not been kept, as Prince Mohammed has brought together exclusive power in the Kingdom’s business circles, industrialists and elite families, as each of his six years in charge resulted in more state-sanctioned deaths than any other. another year of recent history.

Between 2015 and 2022, an average of 129 executions were carried out annually. This figure represents an 82% increase over the 2010-2014 period. Last year, 147 people were executed, 90 of them for crimes that were considered non-violent.

On March 12 last year, up to 81 people were executed – a record high number of executions, which activists say was a targeted signal from the leadership of Saudi Arabia to dissidents, including tribal groups in the country’s eastern provinces.

The report, produced by two organizations, the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights and Reprieve, said: “Saudi’s use of the death penalty is riddled with discrimination and injustice, and the Saudi regime lies to the international community about its use.

“The death penalty is usually used for non-fatal crimes and to silence dissidents and protesters, despite promises by the crown prince that executions will only be used for murders,” the statement said. “Fair trial violations and torture are widespread in death penalty cases, including the torture of child defendants.”

The kingdom is considered one of the leading representatives of the death penalty in the region, and only Iran is considered to execute more people a year. The past six years have also seen a slight increase in the number of executions of children, women and foreign nationals, as well as mass executions and executions for non-death crimes. A moratorium on the death penalty for drug-related crimes was recently lifted.

Prince Mohammed introduced sweeping reforms in the workplace and society in Saudi Arabia, giving women greater access to paid work and changing social norms that for four decades after the Islamic Revolution in Iran had severely segregated the genders and imposed an extremely rigid interpretation of Islam. .

But while there was already little room for dissent under the Kingdom’s absolute monarchy, Prince Mohammed has taken bigotry to a new level: political and business rivals are subject to mass detentions and financial extortion, and family members of officials who have fled the country are detained for leverage to bring them back. to the kingdom.

The death penalty is seen as one of the most intuitive tools of the new regime.

“It is literally a sword that hangs over all of us, over anyone who dares to challenge it,” said one Saudi royal in exile in Europe. “It’s either this or it’s gone. Remember Gaddafi. Remember Saddam. That’s where we are now.”

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