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Press releases

25 April 2008

Saudi Arabia: Secret video shows horror of beheading

Amnesty International has received secretly filmed grisly footage of a man being beheaded in Saudi Arabia. The organization strongly condemns the execution and calls for the Saudi Arabian government to adhere to the UN moratorium on executions around the world.

The horrific footage shows the condemned man’s public execution. He kneels on a mat while spectators and guards watch. With one strike of the executioner’s sword, his head rolls off and his body collapses in a heap. Amnesty International has been closely monitoring the prisoner’s case, a Jordanian citizen convicted on drug trafficking related charges; the footage filmed on a mobile phone is consistent with AI’s records.

Executions in Saudi Arabia are generally held in public. Prisoners are usually sentenced to death following inadequate legal representation. Saudi Arabia continues to execute prisoners despite the UN General Assembly’s adoption of a resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions on 18 December 2007. The beheading is counter to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and comes at a time when there is a clear international trend away from the use of the death penalty.

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, said: “As a member of the UN Human Rights Council, Saudi Arabia should take a leading role in implementing the UN moratorium on executions and commute all outstanding death sentences.

“Very few countries currently carry out executions, and it is deplorable that a member state of the Human Rights Council continues to execute people. Trials are grossly unfair with prisoners getting inadequate or no legal representation. Foreign nationals are often not even given adequate interpretation facilities and consequently remain ignorant of the exact nature of the charges against them or the punishment they face.”

The footage is a dire reflection of the extensive use of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia. In defiance of the world community, in 2007, Saudi Arabia executed at least 143 people, including three women, and children. Since January 2008 the figure has already reached 53.  This morning (25 April) three more people were put to death in Saudi Arabia. All were convicted of drug related crime, following trials about which very little is known. Amnesty International remains gravely concerned for the lives of a number of prisoners at risk of imminent execution and has issued urgent appeals calling for the commutation of their sentences.

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said: “Amnesty International calls on the Saudi government to cease executions and adopt an immediate moratorium on executions in accordance with the UN resolution.”  

Note to Editors
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to kill the prisoner. The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights. It is the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state in the name of justice. It violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.
AI Index: PRE01/128/2008
Region Middle East And North Africa
Country Saudi Arabia
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