A Europe-based organization seeking to promote human rights in Saudi Arabia says the kingdom continues to violate human rights and freedom of religion, warning that Saudi officials plan to execute dozens of imprisoned political dissidents.
The European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR) said on Thursday that the Riyadh regime has been withholding the bodies of 83 dissidents killed by Saudi forces since 2016, and has refused to hand them over to their families. There are a number of minors among the detained bodies, Arabic-language Mirat al-Jazeera news website reported.
The ESOHR further noted that Saudi officials resort to the policy of collective punishment, without paying any attention to the right to life.
Instead of relying on fair trials, Saudi authorities depend on a politicized judiciary that uses torture, intimidation and harassment of detainees as a credible way to level fabricated accusations against defendants and extract coerced confessions, the rights organization said.
The ESOHR went on to say that death sentences against a large number of activists and dissidents are upheld on the basis of confessions extracted under duress, and that Saudi authorities are making use of various methods of torture without paying any attention to the magnitude of prisoner abuse.
“For the first time, Saudi Arabia has set a new record in its history of executions. The authorities have carried out 159 executions since the beginning of the current year up until September 28, thus registering a new record. The number of executions may exceed 200 by the end of the year if it continues at the same rate,” it said.
The ESOHR highlighted that executions have been carried out at an increasing rate ever since King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud succeeded to throne on January 23, 2015.
“A total of 147 executions were carried out in 2018, while 146 executions were ordered the previous year. In 2016, 154 people were put to death. A total of 157 were executed in the preceding year as well,” the rights organization said.
The ESOHR underscored that 39 dissidents are currently facing capital punishment, adding that many of the death penalty appeals are based on written statements after torture, coercion and deception.
Saudi Arabia has lately stepped up politically-motivated arrests, prosecution and conviction of peaceful dissident writers and human rights campaigners.
Over the past years, Riyadh has also redefined its anti-terrorism laws to target activism.