Human Rights Organisations: Escalating Cases of Arbitrary Executions in Saudi Arabia Raise Concerns about the fate of Dozens Inmates on Death Row

Since the beginning of 2023, Saudi authorities have carried out 47 death sentences, some of which against political prisoners who were executed without prior notice to their families. The victims’ families were shocked to learn the news through statements of Saudi Ministry of Interior in which the executions were announced. In addition, the authorities refused to hand over the bodies of the executed victims to their families, and concealed their burial locations, raising concerns about the fate of dozens of inmates on death row who were sentenced following unfair trials.

On Sunday, 4th June 2023, three Saudi nationals were executed: Husain Bin Ali Bin Mohammed Al-Muhaishi, Fadhel Bin Zaki Bin Husain Ansif, and Zakariya Bin Hasan Bin Mohammed Al-Muhaishi. 

In its report issued on 16th May 2023, titled “Death Sentences and Executions in 2022,” Amnesty International highlighted a threefold increase in executions in Saudi Arabia, from 65 in 2021 to 196 in 2022. This is the highest number recorded by Amnesty International in the country in the past 30 years.  The report also noted that in a single day, Saudi Arabia executed 81 individuals, a staggering figure. According to a statement by Human Rights Watch regarding Saudi Arabia’s execution of Bahraini citizens Jaafar Sultan and Sadeq Thamer, “ Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, as well as other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, continue to use overbroad provisions contained within terrorism laws to suppress dissent and target religious minorities.”

Human Rights Watch has documented longstanding violations of due process and fair trial rights in Saudi Arabia’s criminal justice system, making it unlikely that Sultan and Thamer received a fair trial leading up to their execution. Moreover, Amnesty International has described their trial as “grossly unfair.”

In the letter sent by four United Nations’ experts on 16th February 2023, they affirmed that any execution carried out by Saudi Arabia in violation of international laws, including the Convention Against Torture and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, would be considered arbitrary and unlawful. They called on Saudi Arabia to halt the execution of all death sentences against individuals facing charges that occurred before reaching the age of 18. The experts mentioned in the letter are: Mumba Malila, Deputy Chairperson of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Margarette May Macaulay, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; and Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.

The under-signatory human rights urge all related UN bodies and international human rights community and institutions to pressure Saudi authorities to halt the implementation of arbitrary death sentences.


The signatories:

  • Bahrain Forum for Human Rights
  • Salam for Democracy and Human Rights
  • Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights