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Saudi authorities must drop calls to execute peaceful protesters: Amnesty

Saudi Arabia has been repeatedly called out for its death penalty [Getty]

Date of publication: 1 February, 2019

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Amnesty International has called on Saudi Arabia to drop calls to execute peaceful protesters and to cancel the death penalty altogether.

Saudi Arabia must continue to drop death penalties for peaceful protesters, Amnesty International has urged following the authorities’ decision to cancel the death penalty of Shia activist Israa al-Ghomgham.

“The news that Saudi Arabia’s authorities have dropped their outrageous call for Israa al-Ghomgham to be executed comes as a huge relief. However, while her life is no longer at risk, she is still facing a ludicrous prison sentence simply for participating in peaceful demonstrations”, said Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East Director of Campaigns.

Al-Ghomgham was the first female activist in Saudi Arabia to possibly face the death penalty for her human rights work.

She is a prominent Shia activist who documented mass demonstrations in the Eastern Province starting in 2011, was arrested at her home along with her husband in December 2015.

“Saudi Arabia’s prosecutors must now immediately drop their call for the death penalty against four other defendants facing trial alongside Israa al-Ghomgham. All have been detained for exercising their peaceful right to freedom of expression, association and assembly”, Hadid added.

Hadid had also urged the Riyadh government to scrap the death penalty altogether:

“The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment – its use is horrific in all circumstances – but resorting to execution as a means to punish peaceful protesters in violation of international law is particularly appalling. The authorities must take steps to abolish the death penalty.”

“Instead of treating peaceful protesters as criminals and resorting to extreme measures to intimidate them into silence, Saudi Arabia’s authorities must ensure that Israa al-Ghomgham and all others detained solely for exercising their right to peaceful dissent are released immediately and unconditionally.”

The ultra-conservative kingdom has one of the world's highest rates of execution, with nearly 600 carried out since 2014. More than 200 were over drug cases, but also included other crimes such as rape, incest, terrorism, and "sorcery".

Most people are executed by public beheading or firing squad.

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