Saudi Arabia’s official news agency announced today that seven Saudi men convicted of theft and armed robbery have been beheaded. The executions came a week after the men’s families appealed to the king for clemency.
The seven men were arrested in 2006 and received death sentences in 2009. They were originally sentenced to death by firing squad and crucifixion, but they were instead beheaded by three men with swords. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia follows Shariah law, under which people convicted of murder, rape, or armed robbery can be executed.
Earlier this month, the Human Rights Watch called for the sentences to be canceled since some of the men were juveniles when they were arrested. All of the men were between 16 and 20 at the time.
“It will be outrageous if the Saudi authorities go ahead with these executions,” Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in the statement. “It is high time for the Saudis to stop executing child offenders and start observing their obligations under international human rights law.”
One of the men claimed to have only been 15 when he took part in a crime ring that stole jewelry in 2004 and 2005. He was reportedly tortured to confess with no access to lawyers. The judge allegedly never assigned the men lawyers and ignored their complaints of torture.
The men were executed in Abha, a city in the mountainous southwestern part of the country. The city has a moderate temperature year round and is a popular tourist destination among Saudis. It is the capital of Asir province.
The south as a whole is marginalized and lacks the power of the central region where the capital and the Islamic holy sites of Mecca and Medina are located.
Saudi Arabia has executed 23 people so far this year. The kingdom executed 76 people last year and 79 people the year before.
There have been calls in Saudi Arabia to replace public beheadings with alternative forms of execution.
[Image via Wikimedia Commons]