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Saudi Arabia: The land of rising beheadings

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No nodding anymore

By Gaurav Sharma

A report by human rights organization Amnesty International has revealed the alarming rate at which beheadings are being carried out in the Middle-eastern kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The report claims that the Islamic nation executed 175 people last year, an expeditious rate of one beheading every day. The 102 people killed so far in 2015 puts Saudi Arabia on course to beat its 1995 record of 192 beheadings.

In total, Saudi Arabia has executed 2,208 people since 1985, of which nearly 49 percent were foreign nationals. Among those slaughtered have been children below the age of 18 and disabled persons as well.

According to the report, the surge in the government killings began in August last year and has further escalated under the rule of King Salman from January this year.

The report attributes the discrimination of law to a combination of xenophobic pressure by the Saudi government and the inability of foreigners to understand Arabic language.

Among the offences which invited the death penalty were minor drug-related accidents, other crimes not considered as ‘serious’ or even illegal such as adultery, sorcery, witchcraft and ‘apostasy’.

“The Saudi justice system which authorized the killings is deeply-flawed. Not only is the death penalty a horrendous punishment, it is particularly deplorable when applied dictatorially”, says Boumedouha, Amnesty’s acting Middle East director.

The method used to execute convicted prisoners was usually beheading but some people were also killed by a firing squad, the report noted. Also adding weight to the gruesome nature of the justice system in Saudi Arabia, is the fact that most executions were carried out in public spaces.

“The remains of those executed were displayed in public to act as a deterrent. The decapitated corpse along with the severed head were posted in a public square, typically in cases of haraba or banditry”, the report quoted.

Furthermore, the report highlighted the sentence and conviction of 15-16 year-old Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr, a teenage who was executed largely under evidence of signed confessions, something that the boy said were taken under duress.

The case of an Indonesian mother accused of killing her employer was also unearthed. Despite evidence of mental illness, Siti Zainab Binti Duhri Rupa was forced to confess in 1999. Right to trial and legal representation were denied to the woman all through her ordeal.

The report titled ‘Killing in the Name of Justice’: The Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia was compiled through interviews with families of those slayed.

Saudi Arabia now lags only behind China and Iran in the Amnesty study of the top countries in the number of executions carried out last year.

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Despite Pleas From Senate, U.S. President Donald Trump Stands By Saudi Prince

Trump said he could abide by legislation ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led war effort in Yemen

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Donald Trump, Prince
U.S. President Donald Trump sits for an exclusive interview with Reuters journalists in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he stood by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince despite a CIA assessment that he ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and pleas from U.S. senators for Trump to condemn the kingdom’s de facto ruler.

Trump refused to comment on whether Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was complicit in the murder, but he provided perhaps his most explicit show of support for the prince since Khashoggi’s death more than two months ago.

“He’s the leader of Saudi Arabia. They’ve been a very good ally,” Trump said in an interview in the Oval Office.

Saudi Arabia Prince
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends the second day of the Future Investment Initiative conference, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. VOA

Asked by Reuters if standing by the kingdom meant standing by the prince, known as MbS, Trump responded: “Well, at this moment, it certainly does.”

Some members of Saudi Arabia’s ruling family are agitating to prevent MbS from becoming king, sources close to the royal court have told Reuters, and believe that the United States and Trump could play a determining role.

“I just haven’t heard that,” Trump said. “Honestly, I can’t comment on it because I had not heard that at all. In fact, if anything, I’ve heard that he’s very strongly in power.”

While Trump has condemned the murder of Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist who was often critical of MbS, he has given the benefit of the doubt to the prince with whom he has cultivated a deep relationship.

Trump again reiterated on Tuesday that the “crown prince vehemently denies” involvement in a killing that has sparked outrage around the world.

Khashoggi, Prince
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi speaks during a press conference in Manama, Bahrain. VOA

Trump has come under fierce criticism from fellow Republicans in the Senate over the issue, particularly after CIA Director Gina Haspel briefed them. Last month, the CIA assessed that MbS ordered the killing, which Trump called “very premature.”

“You have to be willfully blind not to come to the conclusion that this was orchestrated and organized by people under the command of MbS,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, said last week.

Meeting with Senators

Graham and other senators who have supported the U.S.-Saudi alliance over the years have said that Trump should impose more sanctions after a first round targeted 17 Saudis for their alleged role in the killing in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

USA, Prince
Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks to reporters after a closed-door security briefing by CIA Director Gina Haspel on the slaying of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and involvement of the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, at the Capitol in Washington. VOA

As the Senate considers this week a joint resolution condemning the crown prince for the killing, something that the president would have to sign or veto if passed by Congress, Trump said he would meet with senators.

Trump said he hoped senators would not propose stopping arms sales to the Saudis, deals he has doggedly fought to save ever since the gruesome details of Khashoggi’s murder were leaked by Turkey.

“And I really hope that people aren’t going to suggest that we should not take hundreds of billions of dollars that they’re going to siphon off to Russia and to China,” Trump said.

Also Read: The Khashoggi Killing Creates Differences Between Trump And U.S. Lawmakers

Trump said he could abide by legislation ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led war effort in Yemen, a proxy war with regional rival Iran that has led to a deepening humanitarian disaster.

“Well, I’m much more open to Yemen because frankly, I hate to see what’s going on in Yemen,” Trump said. “But it takes two to tango. I’d want to see Iran pull out of Yemen too. Because – and I think they will.” (VOA)