Another grim milestone was reached this week, but not on the COVID-19 front. Human rights monitors have recorded that Saudi Arabia has carried out its 800th execution since King Salman bin Abdulaziz (and by extension MbS) began his rule five years ago — most being in the form of the kingdom’s ‘favored’ beheadings.
The British nonprofit Reprieve said the kingdom’s rate of execution in Saudi Arabia has doubled since 2015 when King Salman took over following the death of his half-brother, King Abdullah. Of course, as Salman’s health was reportedly increasingly fragile from the start of his rule, it’s widely believed crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) has remained the true power and day-to-day decision maker.
MbS was widely hailed as a ‘reformer’ – among other things promising to greatly reduce the number of annual executions, which include the ghastly methods of beheading and crucifixion. But this is nowhere near the reality.
So much for empty talk of ‘reform’, ‘modernization’ and ‘progress’ – as Middle East Eye reports of Reprieve’s findings:
By comparison, Saudi authorities executed 423 people between 2009 and 2014.
Currently, there are at least 13 juvenile defendants on death row – including Ali al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon and Abdullah al-Zaher – who are “at imminent risk of execution”, Reprieve and the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights said.
Saudi Arabia executed six young men last year who were children at the time of their alleged offences, in a mass execution of 37 people.
Riyadh’s concerns no doubt now lie far elsewhere regarding the prior MbS rhetoric of reform, given the kingdom is now scrambling to bring oil prices back up after the historic global price crash this week.
Reform vs. Reality — public beheadings as a form of political suppression:
— Middle East Monitor (@MiddleEastMnt) April 15, 2020
Apparently ‘Chop Chop Square’ was busy as usual even amid the more pressing crisis of the accelerating oil glut. As of only last week, Amnesty International recorded 789 executions under the king, which only days later grew to 800.
As one Newsweek headline years ago aptly observed, “when it comes to beheadings, ISIS has nothing over Saudi Arabia.”