The Saudi authorities today, Saturday, 12 March 2022, announced the execution of 81 individuals accused of crimes including stalking officials, attacking security personnel, rape, kidnapping and armed robbery, along with claims that they were acting on behalf of terrorist organisations such as Islamic State (referred to by its Arabic acronym ‘Daesh’), the Houthi movement and Al-Qaeda, in a statement issued by the Ministry of Interior.
ALQST condemns the death sentences carried out by the Saudi authorities, and sees them as a backward step in light of earlier pledges to reform use of the death penalty. ALQST also notes that the judiciary in Saudi Arabia is not independent, and that the kingdom has a long track record of unfair trials relying on confessions extracted under torture.
The Saudi authorities long used the country’s legal apparatus to hound and repress dissidents and activists, and in particular used the vaguely-worded Counter-Terrorism Law to target any political activism or criticism by branding it terrorist activity.
The Saudi judiciary’s lack of independence can be clearly seen in that it is not governed by clear and transparent laws. The authorities have not yet passed legislation regulating the judiciary, despite recently making announcements on the subject. Court cases officially continue to be conducted at judges’ personal discretion, allowing them to interpret the law as they see fit. This applies particularly to the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC), which handles terrorist-related cases, and which the authorities have also used for the past decade to target peaceful critics and human rights defenders.
ALQST calls on the Saudi authorities to urgently impose a moratorium on executions and comply with international conventions and treaties, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.