Saudi Arabia has one of the highest death penalty rates in the world and still performs public crucifixions that entail stringing dead bodies up as a deterrent to others.
Saudi Arabia’s official news agency announced on Tuesday that the kingdom recently executed 37 men convicted of terror-related crimes. According to CNN, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) added that one of these supposed criminals was crucified.
While the term carries with it biblical imagery involving nails and an excruciating, often days-long process of dying, the kingdom has developed its own particular variety of the practice. Crucifixion in the kingdom involves stringing an already executed individual up for others to see.
The SPA released a statement on Twitter that explained the government’s macabre actions as an effective means to deter others while bringing justice to individuals who allegedly adopted violent ideologies and began forming terrorist cells.
Among the dead, according to VICE News, is a pro-democracy protestor who was gearing up to attend Western Michigan University. Mujtaba al-Sweikat was arrested as a teenager in 2011 for attending pro-democracy rallies. After seven years of imprisonment, the kingdom beheaded him.
Most of those executed by the Saudi government were Shia men, according to Amnesty International. The organization was adamant that their executions were entirely unwarranted, and the result of “sham trials that violated international fair trial standards which relied on confessions extracted through torture.”
The SPA released the names of all 37 executed individuals and claimed that many among them had been charged with killing security officials with explosives.
Spying on Iran was the alleged crime that 11 of these men were executed for, while at least 14 were convicted of violent offenses — which, in the kingdom, includes participating in anti-government demonstrations.
The timeframe here places their activity between 2011 and 2012, which seems to suggest that al-Sweikat was among those 14.
International human rights group Reprieve is convinced the government functions with reckless abandonment toward the law and morality.
“This is another egregious display of brutality by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” said Reprieve Director Maya Foa. “At least three of the people executed today were arrested as teenagers and tortured into false confessions.”
“Many were convicted of non-lethal crimes, such as attending protests.”
Haydar al-Leif was among the 37 dead as well. Though he had previously been granted the “final and definitive judgment” of eight years in prison, he was simply executed.
When Saudi Arabia was pressured by the UN Human Rights office in 2017 on the kingdom’s arbitrary detentions and executions, it responded with an assuaging letter that al-Leif would merely carry out his sentence and be released upon completion.
A 2018 report by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights described the man as “no longer at risk.” Unfortunately, the kingdom disagreed and killed him — despite its promise to the UN that it wouldn’t.
“Justice was served,” a Saudi official told CNN. He claimed that the government’s actions were entirely rational, as they successfully foiled a terror attack on an intelligence center in the Zulfi Province.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has long ago adopted a zero tolerance policy towards terrorists who spill the blood of the innocent, threaten the national security of the kingdom and distort our great faith,” he said.
“The convicted criminals who were executed today had their day in court and were found guilty of very serious crimes,” he said, adding that terror groups “continue to target the kingdom and its people.”
The U.S. State Department, meanwhile, said it has repeatedly urged the kingdom to “ensure fair trial guarantees.”
“We have seen these reports,” an official said. “We urge the government of Saudi Arabia, and all governments, to ensure trial guarantees, freedom from arbitrary and extrajudicial detention, transparency, rule of law, and freedom of religion and belief.”
Unfortunately, the United States has developed a fairly substantial and lucrative relationship with the kingdom.
The kingdom has one of the highest death penalty rates on the planet and conducted one of its most extensive mass executions in history in 2016. In January of that year, the country killed 47 people accused of terrorism, among them, prominent Shia leader Nimr al-Nimr.
After learning about Saudi Arabia executing 37 people, read about the kingdom sentencing a woman to 2 years in prison for publicly hugging a man. Then, discover the last words these 23 criminals before their execution.