Saudi Arabia is setting new records for the wrong reasons, as it reportedly took its number of executions for the year to 100, well in excess of last year’s tally and putting it on course for a new record.
The Saudi Press Agency announced two more convicted criminals were killed by the government on Monday, including a foreign national guilty of only a non-violent drug smuggling offence.
Syrian Ismael al-Tawm, convicted of transporting “a large amount of banned amphetamine pills into the kingdom”, was beheaded in the northern region of Jawf, according to news agency AFP.
The other man, Rami al-Khaldi, was convicted of stabbing a fellow Saudi to death and was executed in the province of Taef.
The tally of 100 executions for this year, as tracked by AFP, exceeds both the country's official tally of execution last year of 87 and rights group Amnesty International’s count of “90+”.
According to Middle East Eye, the surge in numbers sees the country on the brink of setting a new record for beheadings – other nations like Iran, China and Pakistan have killed more people, but by different methods.
It also puts Saudi Arabia on course to beat its own record of total executions which, according to Amnesty International, was set at 192 in 1995.
The charity warned that the executions are particularly concerning given almost half were for non-violent drugs-related offences.
Middle east expert Husain Abdulla thinks the rise in executions are directly linked to the new King Salman and his recently-appointed inner circle, exposing a lack of independence of the Saudi judiciary.
“These men have worked tirelessly to further conflate criminal justice with the authority of the monarchy, all while reasserting the government’s seemingly unshakeable commitment to authoritarian rule,” he said.
Saudi Arabia is the world's third highest user of the death penalty.
According to Amnesty International, the top state killers are:
1. China (1000+)
2. Iran (289+)
3. Saudi Arabia (90+)
4. Iraq (61+)
5. USA (35+)
6. Sudan (23+)
7. Yemen (22+)
8. Egypt (15+)
9. Somalia (14+)
10. Jordan (11+)