Electronic billboards in London during Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s UK visit in early March 2018. (Photo credit: AFP)
During the first half of 2022, Saudi Arabia executed 120 people, a number higher than that of 2020 and 2021 combined, as the kingdom is on its way to surpass the record of 186 executions set in 2019.
According to a report released by the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR) last month, 101 of the individuals executed this year were Saudi nationals, 9 were Yemeni, while the rest were citizens from Egypt, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Jordan, Palestine, and Syria.
“If Saudi Arabia continues to execute people at the same pace during the second half of 2022, they will reach an unprecedented number of executions, exceeding the record high of 186 executions in 2019,” the report highlights.
Most of the executions carried out this year took place on 12 March, when Saudi officials killed 81 detainees on charges of “terrorism-related activities.”
Rights groups later revealed that 41 of those executed that day came from Qatif, a region populated by the kingdom’s Shia Muslim minority. Among the dead were also seven Yemenis and one Syrian.
At least 58 of the victims were executed for nonlethal offenses, and 41 were executed for participation in anti-government protests. None of the bodies were returned to the families.
At the time, Riyadh claimed the executions were carried out on convicts who held “deviant beliefs, pledging allegiance to foreign organizations.”
Shia Muslims living in the kingdom are largely seen as heretics by the ruling Sunni Muslim class. The religious minority often denounces marginalization, as they are accused of being “sympathizers” of Iran.
They are also targeted by arrest campaigns without prior notice or warrants.
International NGOs such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) have criticized the Saudi judicial system for its injustice and lack of due process.
“People accused of crimes, including children, commonly face systematic violations of due process and fair trial rights, including arbitrary arrest,” says an HRW report from March 2022.