The announcement fell for the rights groups as a new chopper. In a statement relayed on Tuesday (April 23rd) by the official SPA agency, the Saudi Ministry of the Interior has indicated that 37 nationals of the kingdom – notably convicted of having "Adopted extremist terrorist thinking" or to have "Formed terrorist cells" – had been executed a few hours earlier in the country.
These last massive killings were held in six regions; the capital, Riyadh, the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, but also the Sunni region of Al-Qassim (center), those of Assir (south) and the Eastern Province, where the Shia minority (1 ), according to the same document. According to a statement based on official statements, they bring to 104 the number of death sentences handed down in the country since the beginning of the year.
"Overall, the order of magnitude of the annual number of executions in the country has always fluctuated between 145 and 150 in recent years. But being already at 104 in April bodes of a particularly dark year for 2019 … ", condemns Anne Denis, head of the Committee on the Abolition of the Death Penalty at Amnesty International. According to the NGO, Riyadh is in the lead group, behind China and Iran, the countries with the most recourse to the death sentence in the world.
In Saudi Arabia, a façade opening on human rights
There are still several gray areas on the profile of the last tortured. "Thirty-three of them are certainly Shiites"Wednesday, April 24 at Agence France-Presse Adam Coogle, a researcher at the NGO Human Rights Watch.
Some, in fact, had been arrested for "Confessional sedition", a charge regularly invoked to bring down Shiite militants. In a statement issued on Tuesday (April 23rd), Amnesty International also confirmed, according to its sources, that the majority of "Shia men", having been " sentenced after fictitious trials violating international standards of fair trial, based on confessions extracted under torture ".
Among them, there are eleven individuals convicted of espionage on behalf of Iran. At least fourteen others, one of whom was only 16 at the time of the crime, were convicted of "Violent crimes" linked to their participation, between 2011 and 2012, in anti-government demonstrations. Finally, the location of sentences in other Sunni areas suggests that suspected jihadists attached to this Islamist movement were also included in the firing squad.
In the Wahhabi petomonarchy, killings usually take place by beheading, but the Saudi ministry said that one of the victims of the latest round of executions was also crucified. "This is a treatment reserved for the most serious crimes, when the authorities want to set an example by showing in public place that they remain the strongest", laments Anne Denis again. "Torture, executions of juvenile offenders, unfair trials … The situation shocked us deeply, because Riyad violently violates international legislation".
While human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia were put under the spotlight around the world in the aftermath of last October's savage assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the previous massive condemnations to the death penalty in the country. countries dated back to January 2016.
Saudi Arabia: MBS, the autocratic prince made many enemies
At the time, 47 people, also arrested for "Terrorism" had been put to death the same day. The famous Shiite religious leader Nimr Baqer al-Nimr was then among the convicts.
A virulent critic of the Sunni Al-Saud dynasty, the then 56-year-old was the figurehead of a protest movement that erupted in 2011 in eastern Arabia, where the Shia minority complained of being marginalized. The episode caused a violent diplomatic break between Riyadh and Tehran. And, according to Anne Denis, "The latest wave of killings, targeting particularly Shiites, could again provoke an escalation between the two rival countries."