The execution marks an alarming escalation in Saudi Arabia’s use of the death penalty, said Amnesty International on Tuesday, noting that among those put to death was a young shia man, identified as Abdulkareem al-Hawaj, who was convicted of offenses related to his involvement in anti-government protests that took place while he was under the age of 16.
“Today’s mass execution is a chilling demonstration of the Saudi Arabian authorities callous disregard for human life. It is also yet another gruesome indication of how the death penalty is being used as a political tool to crush dissent from within the country’s Shia minority,” said Lynn Maalouf, the Middle East Research Director at Amnesty International.
“The use of the death penalty is always appalling but it is even more shocking when it is applied after unfair trials or against people who were under 18 at the time of the crime, in flagrant violation of international law,” Maalouf added.
Under international law, the use of the death penalty against people who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime is strictly prohibited.
“Instead of stepping up executions at an alarming rate in the name of countering terrorism, Saudi Arabia’s must halt this bloody execution spree immediately and establish an official moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolishing the death penalty completely,” said Maalouf.
Earlier this month, Amnesty International warned that Saudi Arabia is making use of the death penalty to crush opposition figures.
The London-based rights group said Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor was seeking the death penalty for more people, noting that prominent preacher Sheikh Salman al-Awdah was one of those targeted for execution.