Just The Facts

Saudi Arabia’s Execution Flurry

A recent mass execution puts into focus Saudi Arabia’s heavy use of the death penalty.

Activists carry placards that symbolize gallows to protest against death penalty. Credit: Olga Besnard Shutterstock.com


  • In 2014, Saudi Arabia was the third-highest number of executions carried out worldwide.
  • In 2016, 47 prisoners were executed in a single day in Saudi Arabia.
  • More than half of Saudi executions were for non-lethal crimes like “sorcery” and drug trafficking.
  • Saudi Arabia is one of 21 countries to have carried out confirmed executions in 2014.

1. In 2014, the latest year for which international data have been compiled, at least 90 people were put to death in Saudi Arabia.

2. That was the third-highest (after China and Iran) number of executions carried out worldwide, according to Amnesty International. The number is likely to be much higher in 2016, which began with the mass execution of 47 prisoners in a single day in Saudi Arabia.

3. Many were political dissidents and human rights activists convicted in show trials, including prominent Shia cleric, Nimr al-Nimr, who promoted non-violent resistance against the monarchy.

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4. More than half of Saudi Arabia’s 2014 executions were carried out for non-lethal crimes, including rape, kidnapping, “witchcraft,” “sorcery” and drug trafficking.

5. Forty-two of the country’s 90 confirmed Saudi executions in 2014 were for drug-related offences.

6. More than a third of those executed (37) were citizens of some other country, including 21 Pakistanis.

7. Saudi Arabia is one of 21 countries around the world to have carried out confirmed executions in 2014.

8. North Korea, for example, is also believed to have carried out executions, but a lack of transparency in the judicial system and the media makes the exact number impossible to determine.

9. Likewise, conditions in post-revolution Libya and in civil war-torn Syria made it impossible for observers to confirm whether formal executions took place in those countries.

Sources: Amnesty International and The Globalist Research Center

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