Drug trafficking, rape, murder, apostasy (abandonment of religious faith) and armed robbery are all punishable by death in the Gulf nation. Executions are carried out in public, mostly by beheading with a sword.
Saudi authorities have already carried out 90 executions since the beginning of 2015, more than the 88 for all of 2014. Forty-one of the ninety people executed since the start of 2015 were sentenced for non-violent drug offenses.
“Any execution is appalling, but executions for crimes such as drug smuggling that result in no loss of life are particularly egregious,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “There is no excuse for Saudi Arabia’s continued use of the death penalty for these types of crimes.”
The Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Saudi Arabia’s state news agency, said in news releases that only 14 of the 90 prisoners executed so far in 2015 were convicted of Hadd (“limit”) crimes for which Islamic law mandates a specific punishment, including the death penalty, while 27 were sentenced under the Islamic law concept of Qisas, or eye-for-an-eye retribution for murder. Judges based their sentences for the other 49, including the 41 for drug-related crimes, on judicial discretion.