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Harm Reduction International Names Saudi Arabia World’s “Top Executioner” for Drug Offences

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Harm Reduction International, a non-governmental organization campaigning for worldwide adoption of responsible and ethical drug policy, released its annual report today in which it strongly criticized the Government of Saudi Arabia. The report concluded that Saudi Arabia is the world’s “top executioner” for drug offences, and that it has carried out “gruesome mass executions”  constituting “inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.”

The report is available here.

According to the report, to which ESOHR contributed, although numerous countries maintain the death penalty for drug consumption, Saudi Arabia is one of only four confirmed countries that carried out executions for drug-related offences in 2019.[1] With at least 84 persons executed for drug-related offences last year, Saudi Arabia made up approximately half of all confirmed drug-related executions (excluding those from China and Vietnam, which are not reported). The numbers represent a sharp increase year-on-year, despite promises from Crown Prince Salman to reduce the number of executioners conducted by Saudi Authorities.

The report also identified that the use of torture is endemic in Saudi drug-related executions, citing a Justice Project Pakistan report stating that many Pakistanis arrested for drug-related offences routinely complain of abuse or other ill-treatment in Saudi prisons. HRI detailed the case of Hussain Abo-Alkhair, in which a Jordanian national was detained and tortured until he signed a false confession, which was used in court to secure his death sentence. ESOHR itself has documented many such cases in the past exactly like the one described in HRI’s report.

HRI’s report comes on the heels of an ESOHR report that also documented the prolific use of capital punishment in Saudi Arabia. That report identified 185 total executions in the country, a number that rose sharply with the April massacre of 37 prisoners, many of whom were executed for drug crimes and similar non-major offences.

The government has continued its deadly trend into 2020, already having carried out at least 10 executioners as of 27 February, five of which were for drug offences. Of of those executed was an Egyptian national named Muammar al-Qaddafi, who alleged serious fair trial violations, including torture and the use of a coerced confession, prior to his death. The Government of Saudi Arabia has yet to repatriate his remains. ESOHR’s internal numbers show that 46 persons are presently on death row in Saudi Arabia.

[1]     The other three countries being Iran, China, and Singapore. Vietnam is thought to also execute persons for drug-related offences, but could not be confirmed at time of writing.

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