Saudi Arabia executed 81 people in one day on March 12, including seven Yemenis and one Syrian. It was the largest one-off execution in Saudi Arabia in decades, surpassing the 67 executed in all of 2021 and the 27 in all of 2020.
The Saudi interior ministry said in a statement that their crimes included joining militant groups, swearing allegiance to foreign terrorist groups such as ISIS, al-Qaeda and the Houthis, holding rebellious beliefs, and murdering men, women and children.
The statement did not say how the executions were carried out.
The statement also said 37 of the 81 were Saudi nationals. They were convicted of a plot to assassinate a security officer and an attempted attack on a police station and police convoy.
The mass executions by Saudi Arabia are likely to bring international attention to the kingdom’s human rights record as global attention is focused on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Human rights groups have accused Saudi Arabia of imposing draconian laws restricting political and religious expression, and criticized the kingdom’s insistence on the death penalty, even for defendants who were minors at the time of the crime.
Saudi Arabia denies allegations of human rights abuses, saying it only protects national security through laws.
In 1980, the Saudi kingdom executed 63 people in one day. The previous year, militants had occupied the Grand Mosque in Mecca. In 2016, Saudi Arabia executed 47 people in one day, including prominent Shiite cleric Nimir.
Saudi Arabia has one of the highest number of executions in the world each year. According to the Amnesty International report, China remains the country that carries out the most executions in the world. Although China’s use of the death penalty may have declined in recent years, Amnesty International believes that thousands of people will still be sentenced and executed in China in 2020. Amnesty International continues to call on China to be transparent and publish detailed information about the death penalty.
In 2020, Iran was the world’s second largest executioner with over 246 executions, followed by Egypt with over 107, Iraq with over 45 and Saudi Arabia (27).
According to the report, about 108 countries around the world have abolished the death penalty completely, and 144 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice.