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Saudi executed 172 in 2023, as bloodiest years in kingdom's history continue, rights group warns

January 2, 2024 at 11:53 am

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman in New Delhi on September 9, 2023 [EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]

Saudi Arabia executed 172 people in 2023, despite renewed promises from the kingdom’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, to limit the scope of capital punishment, rights group Reprieve has said. Warning that “the true number of executions cannot be ascertained with confidence.”

Since the Crown Prince and his father, King Salman, assumed power in 2015, Saudi Arabia has executed at least 1,257 people, at an average of 140 people per year.  “The seven bloodiest years in the Kingdom’s modern history have occurred under their leadership and the rate of executions has almost doubled,” it added in a statement today.

“Behind the mega-investments in sport and the facade of reform, the Kingdom remains one of the world’s top executioners. Owning the wrong books, posting a critical tweet, speaking to a journalist or disagreeing with the Crown Prince can earn you a death sentence, ” Reprieve Director Maya Foa said.

While the Legal Director of the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights (ESOHR), Taha Al-Hajji, explained: “The Crown Prince has blamed ‘bad laws’ and rogue judges for Saudi Arabia’s continued execution crisis, but nothing gets done in the Kingdom without his approval. His endless empty promises of reform are contradicted by the facts.”

In 2022, authorities announced 147 executions in Saudi Arabia, but the Saudi Human Rights Commission later confirmed to Amnesty International that 196 executions had been carried out.

One notable development in 2023 is a significant increase in the number of women executed: six, including three Saudi nationals, one Yemeni, one Ghanaian and one Bangladeshi. Another is the execution of two Saudi men convicted in military courts, no details of the rulings or trials are available for these cases.

READ: Saudi sentences student to 27 years in jail for social media posts