Geneva – In a move that seemingly does not apply to the cases of death sentence in the U.S., the United Nations has now relaunched its campaign against this capital punishment, expressing “alarm” at the increase of death penalties in Saudi Arabia. Rupert Colville, spokes-person for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed on Jan. 6 the UN human rights body’s “alarm at the significant increase in Saudi Arabia’s use of capital punishment in the past year.” According to OHCHR, the number of executions in the Gulf country “almost tripled” last year compared with 2010. Last October, OHCHR wrote that at least 20 of the 58 people reportedly executed in Saudi Arabia in 2011 were migrant workers. “We call on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to respect international standards guaranteeing due process and the 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,” OHCHR Colville said in Geneva. Saudi Arabia –a key ally of the United Sates in the Arab region– applies the death penalty for a wide range of offences, including the charge of sorcery and witchcraft, for which a woman was executed last month.
No More Torture and Other Forms of Cruel Punishment
“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,” he added. OHCHR also expressed :grave concern” at the recent sentencing of six men convicted on charges of highway robbery. The men were condemned to “cross amputation” – a form of punishment which involves the 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,” Colville continued, noting that as a party to the Convention against Torture, Saudi Arabia is “bound by the absolute prohibition” against the use of torture and other forms of cruel punishment. Last October, OHCHR voiced “deep distress” over the execution of 10 men who were publicly beheaded in the country’s capital, Riyadh, while underscoring that about 140 of the 193 UN member States are now believed to have either abolished the death penalty or introduced a moratorium.
Eight of the 10 men were foreign migrant workers, and called on the country to establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. The eight Bangladeshi migrant workers were beheaded in public in the capital, Riyadh, after they were found guilty of killing an Egyptian in 2007, according to media reports. Three other Bangladeshis were sentenced to prison terms and flogging in the same case. Colville said last October that about 140 of the 193 UN member States are believed to have abolished the death penalty or introduced a moratorium, either legally or in practice. “We call on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to join these States and establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty”.
2012 Human Wrongs Watch
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