Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- the Saudi Human Rights Association has addressed the criticisms of Amnesty International regarding what it called the excessive use of the death penalty in the Kingdom.
Commenting on these criticisms, Dr. Zuhayr al-Harithi, the Saudi Human Rights Association spokesman, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the death penalty in the kingdom is not carried out until after an exhaustive examination of the relevant case by 13 judges before it is endorsed by the highest authority in the kingdom, the king.
He voiced his country’s categorical rejection of these accusations and said: “What the international organizations are unable to understand so far is that each country has its own penal system and judicial rulings which should be respected. It is impossible to disclaim anything related to the Shariaa’s religious texts as they are at the heart of the penal system in the country.”
Saudi Arabia applies the rules of Islamic Shariaa and its judges issue their decisions in accordance with Islamic rules. The Amnesty International report on the death penalty in Saudi Arabia mentioned figures saying “it is executing convicted persons at an average of more than two a week and that around half of them are foreigners from poor countries.”
The death penalty is applied in Saudi Arabia to murderers, rapists, drug merchants, and sorcerers. The London-based organization said the number of executions carried out last year in Saudi Arabia rose to 158 compared to 36 in the previous year. On his part, the Human Rights Association spokesman stressed that the Saudi systems provide guarantees for all persons whose cases are before the courts.
On how the death penalty is issued, Zuhayr al-Harithi explained that such cases are examined in a way that provides enough guarantees for the defendant (in the case) before deciding if his felony deserved execution or not. He said in a case where there could be a death penalty, three judges rule at first before it is sent to the court of cassation which refers its ruling from five judges to other five judges in the Higher Judicial Council and then to the king.
The Amnesty International report says “the process in which the death penalty is taken and implemented is harsh, secret, and largely unfair” according to its language as reported by Reuters which said in turn it could not contact an official Saudi spokesman to comment on it.
The judicial system in Saudi Arabia allows the victims’ families to pardon convicted killers. A study by Reuters said a large percentage of those executed during the past two years were Saudi citizens.