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UN rights experts urge Saudi Arabia to halt continuous stream of executions, many by beheading

GENEVA (09 September 2014) – The United Nations independent experts on summary executions and torture have renewed their call on Saudi Arabia to implement an immediate moratorium on the use of the death penalty amid a reported increase in executions, many of them by beheading.

“Beheading as a form of execution is cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and prohibited under international law under all circumstances,” said Juan Méndez, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
 
“Despite several calls by human rights bodies, Saudi Arabia continues to execute individuals with appalling regularity and in flagrant disregard of international law standards,” said Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

“The trials are by all accounts grossly unfair. Defendants are often not allowed a lawyer and death sentences were imposed following confessions obtained under torture. The method of execution then aggravates a situation that is already totally unacceptable,” they said.

So far in 2014, at least 45 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia. Between 4 and 22 August,  22 people were executed, which represents an average of one execution per day. These included at least eight people beheaded in August for non-violent crimes including drug-smuggling and sorcery.  Other offences resulting in beheading have reportedly included adultery and apostasy.

“The practice of beheading, especially after unfair trials for crimes that may not carry the death penalty under international law is shocking and grossly inappropriate," the experts said. They urged the authorities of Saudi Arabia to comply with international human rights standards.

They called on the government of Saudi Arabia to stop all executions, and in particular to cease immediately the use of beheadings or other such forms of execution that shock the conscience of humanity.

 

ENDS

The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns (South Africa), is a director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa and Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Pretoria, where he has also directed the Centre for Human Rights, and has engaged in wide-reaching initiatives on human rights in Africa. He has advised a number of international, regional and national entities on human rights issues.  Learn more, log on to:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Executions/Pages/SRExecutionsIndex.aspx

Juan E. Méndez (Argentina) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in November 2010. He is independent from any government and serves in his individual capacity. Mr. Méndez has dedicated his legal career to the defense of human rights, and has a long and distinguished record of advocacy throughout the Americas. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Torture/SRTorture/Pages/SRTortureIndex.aspx

 

UN Human Rights, country page – Saudi Arabia: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/SAIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Johel Dominique (+41 22 928 93 98 / jdominique@ohchr.org) and Brenda Vukovic (+41 22 917 9635/ bvukovic@ohchr.org) or Stephanie Selg (+41 22 917 93 26/ sselg@ohchr.org) or write to eje@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Liz Throssell  UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9466 / ethrossell@ohchr.org)  

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