Despite his yearn for modernization in Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom’s de facto leader Mohammed Bin Salman seems to have completely crossed human rights issues out of the list of his concerns as executions nearly doubled during his rule.
Since June 2017 when Mohammed Bin Salman became Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, the rate of executions carried out by the Kingdom has almost doubled. According to a newly-released report prepared by two organizations, the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights and Reprieve, this marks the past six years to be the deadliest period in the whole history of Saudi Arabia.
This is while since his appointment as Crown Prince, Bin Salman has been enthusiastically moving towards modernization and has made widespread reforms by granting Saudi civilians, men and women, more individual liberties.
Just as an example, he has recently introduced extensive reforms across Saudi workplaces and society, giving women more access to gainful employment and changing social norms that had, for years, kept genders strictly segregated and enforced an ultra-hardline interpretation of Islamic rules and principles.
However, the young Crown Prince has been extremely tough on his critics and political opponents, and showing zero tolerance, he has so far punished them mostly with executions.
As the above-mentioned report, notes, “between 2015 and 2022, an average of 129 executions were carried out each year. The figure represents an 82% increase on the period 2010-14. Last year, 147 people were executed – 90 of them for crimes that were considered to be nonviolent.”
The report also continues that on 12 March 2022, “more than 81 men were put to death – an all-time high number of executions.”
Human rights activists and political analysts both believe that this way of showing an iron fist in dealing with whoever disagrees with Bin Salman is mostly a pointed message from the Saudi leadership to dissenters, among them tribal groups in the country’s eastern provinces who historically oppose the Saudi’s royal family.
The findings of the report give even more alarming facts on human rights violations in Bin Salman’s Saudi Arabia as it further notes that “Saudi Arabia’s application of the death penalty is riddled with discrimination and injustice and the Saudi regime has been lying to the international community about its use.”
Under Bin Salman, people are executed even for minor wrongdoings
What makes the practice of execution in the Kingdom even more disturbing is that, as the report explains, people in Saudi Arabia are usually beheaded for non-lethal offences and the Crown Prince does it also to silence dissidents and protesters.
Ironically, Bin Salman has promised on several occasions that under his rule, executions would only be used for murder. The reality, however, is that in the last six years of his rule, there have also been concerning increases in numbers of executions of children, women and foreign nationals, as well as mass executions.
But it is not just Islamic scholars, human rights activists, women’s rights activists, journalists, Islamists, and other political opponents who are oppressed by the Crown Prince.
former insiders and family members of officials and even members of the royal family are also no exception, many of whom that have fled the country for the fear of execution. “It’s literally a sword that hangs over all of us, anyone who dares to defy him,” says one Saudi royal in exile in Europe, adding that “it’s either that, or being disappeared. Think Gaddafi. Think Saddam. That’s where we are now.”