UN rights experts urge Saudi Arabia to place moratorium on executions

UN rights experts urge Saudi Arabia to place moratorium on executions

[JURIST] Two experts from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] urged [press release] Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to implement an immediate moratorium on the death penalty following an increase in executions, with a significant number of the executions completed by beheading. The experts include the special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, and the special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan Mendez. The experts argue that beheading as a form of execution is cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and the method of execution is prohibited under international law under all circumstances. The announcement notes that 45 individuals have been executed in 2014, and a number of the convictions were for non-violent crimes that do not justify imposition of the death penalty under international law. Further, the experts allege many of the trials have been conducted in violation of legal due process rules, as the accused are subject to torture and deprived of the right to have legal representation.

The human rights record of Saudi Arabia [JURIST news archive] has drawn heavy criticism from international rights groups following the ratification [JURIST report] of new counterterrorism laws by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz [official profile] in early February 2014. In July the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navy Pillay, expressed deep concern [JURIST report] over the harsh sentences and detention of peaceful human rights advocates in Saudi Arabia in recent months. In February JURIST Guest Columnist Adam Coogle of Human Rights Watch argued [JURIST op-ed] that Saudi Arabia’s new terrorism law is a vague, catch-all document that can—and probably will—be used to prosecute or jail anyone who criticizes the Saudi government and to violate their due process rights along the way. Also in February Amnesty International criticized [JURIST report] the Saudi Arabian counterterrorism law on the basis that the law will deepen existing patterns of human rights violations and will be used to crack down on peaceful dissent.