[JURIST] The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] on Friday expressed alarm [press release] over the increased use of capital punishment in Saudi Arabia, including increased use of torture to obtain confessions. According to OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville, executions in Saudi Arabia have nearly tripled since 2010. He also expressed concern over the recent sentencing of six Saudi men to “cross amputation,” a punishment that involves amputating the right hand and left foot of a convicted individual. Saudi Arabia is a party to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [text], an absolute prohibition against torture and certain forms of cruel punishment. In a statement to reporters, Colville said “[w]e 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.” Saudi Arabia imposes the death penalty for a number of crimes, including witchcraft and sorcery.
Saudi Arabia has been criticized for its capital punishment practices in the past. In July Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] called for a halt to executions [JURIST report] in Saudi Arabia, claiming there is often a lack of basic procedural due process. AI cited the increase in capital punishment over 2011 as cause for concern. In 2008 AI released a report finding that Saudi Arabia executed more people per capita than any other nation [JURIST reports]. According to that report, at least 1,252 people were put to death in 24 countries, with Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, Pakistan and the US accounting for the vast majority of the executions. In July of that year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released a report criticizing a lack of legal protections [JURIST report] for the 1.5 million migrant domestic workers in Saudi Arabia. Among other proposed reforms, HRW called on the Saudi government to amend the 2005 Labor Law to cover migrant workers.