Saudi Arabia must adopt a moratorium on executions for drug-related offenses, the UN human rights office, OHCHR, said on Tuesday, responding to the recent resumption of capital punishment for these crimes.
Spokesperson Liz Throssell said executions have been taking place almost daily over the past two weeks, following the end of a 21-month official moratorium.
“The resumption of executions for drug-related offences in Saudi Arabia is a deeply regrettable step, all the more so coming just days after a wide majority of States in the UN General Assembly called for a moratorium on the death penalty worldwide,” she told journalists in Geneva.
17 executions to date
Since 10 November, Saudi Arabia has executed 17 men for what were termed drug and contraband offences, with three taking place on Monday.
Those executed to date were four Syrians, three Pakistanis, three Jordanians, and seven Saudis.
As executions are only confirmed after they take place, OHCHR does not have information on how many people may be on death row in the country.
Halt imminent execution
However, Ms. Throssell said they have received reports that a Jordanian man, Hussein abo al-Kheir, may be at imminent risk.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had previously taken up his case and found that his detention lacked legal basis and was arbitrary. The rights experts also noted grave concerns relating to his right to a fair trial.
“We urge the Saudi Government to halt al-Kheir’s reported imminent execution and to comply with the Working Group’s opinion by quashing his death sentence, releasing him immediately and unconditionally, and by ensuring that he receives medical care, compensation and other reparations,” she said.
Against international norms
Ms. Throssell stressed that imposing the death penalty for drug offences is incompatible with international norms and standards.
“We call on the Saudi authorities to adopt a formal moratorium on executions for drug-related offences, to commute death sentences for drug-related offences, and to ensure the right to a fair trial for all defendants, including those charged with such offences, in line with its international obligations,” she said.