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Press briefing notes on Saudi Arabia

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva
Date: 6 January 2012

We are alarmed at the significant increase in the use of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia in 2011. According to reports, the number of executions almost tripled last year compared with 2010. Saudi Arabia applies the death penalty for a wide range of offences. Last month (December), yet another woman was executed on charges of sorcery and witchcraft.

What is even more worrying is that court proceedings often reportedly fall far short of international fair trial standards, and the use of torture as a means to obtain confessions appears to be rampant. We call on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to respect international standards guaranteeing due process and protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, to progressively restrict the use of the death penalty and to reduce the number of offences for which it may be imposed.

We are also gravely concerned at the sentence of “cross amputation” handed down to six men convicted on charges of highway robbery. On 24 December, the Supreme Court upheld the sentences, which will involve amputation of the men's right hands and left feet. We call on the authorities to halt the use of such cruel, inhuman, degrading punishment. As a party to the Convention against Torture, Saudi Arabia is bound by the absolute prohibition against the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

ENDS

For more information or media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or Ravina Shamdasani (+ 41 22 917 9310 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org) or Xabier Celaya (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org).

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