According to the latest reports by Amnesty International, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) executed a record number of people in 2019. These figures are shocking as 184 executions are the highest Amnesty has ever recorded for the KSA

In its 2019 global review of the death penalty published, Amnesty reported that Riyadh intensified the use of the death penalty even as the rest of the world saw a drop in executions. Saudi Arabia executed 178 men and six women in 2019 compared to 149 in 2018.

“Saudi Arabia’s growing use of the death penalty, including as a weapon against political dissidents, is an alarming development,” Clare Algar, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for Research, Advocacy and Policy, said.

Most executions were for drug-related offenses and murder. However, Amnesty also reported an increased use of executions as a political tool against dissenters from the Shi’a Muslim community.

On 23 April, there was a mass execution of 37 people, 32 of them Shi’a men sentenced on “terrorism” charges after hearings that involved declarations obtained through torture.

Meanwhile, Iran remained the world’s second-biggest executioner after China, where the exact number of people sentenced to death remains a state secret. The number of executions nearly doubled in Iraq, the report added.

Iran executed at least 251 people last year (compared with at least 253 in 2018). However, a lack of transparency makes it challenging to verify the actual number of capital punishments which may be far higher.

The top five executing countries in 2019 were: China (1000s), Iran (at least 251), Saudi Arabia (184), Iraq (at least 100) and Egypt (at least 32).

Amnesty’s report shows that the following 20 countries carried out executions last year: China (1000s), Iran (251+), Saudi Arabia (184), Iraq (100+), Egypt (32+), USA (22), Pakistan (14+), Somalia (12+), South Sudan (11+), Yemen (7), Singapore (4), Bahrain (3), Japan (3), Belarus (2+), Bangladesh (2), Botswana (1), Sudan (1), North Korea (unknown), Syria (unknown) and Vietnam (unknown).

Methods of capital punishment used last year varied from beheading (Saudi Arabia), to electrocution (USA), lethal injection (USA, China, and Vietnam), shooting (Bahrain, Belarus, China, North Korea, Somalia, Yemen), and hanging (others).