Saudi Arabia executed 184 people in 2019: Rights group

Human rights group Reprieve calls the kingdom a ‘pariah state’ and questions why it is hosting this year’s G20 summit.

Prince MBS
MBS had said in a 2018 TV interview that he had 'tried to minimise' executions in the kingdom [File: Bandar Algaloud/Handout/Reuters]

Saudi Arabia executed 184 people in 2019, the most in a calendar year in six years, human rights organisation Reprieve has said, calling it a “grim milestone” for the kingdom.

Of the executions announced by the Saudi Press Agency last year, 88 were Saudi nationals, 90 were foreign nationals and six people were of unknown nationality, a statement released on Monday by Reprieve said.

The group said 37 people were executed by the Saudi government on a single day on April 23, including three who were children when they had committed their alleged offences.

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“This is another grim milestone for Mohammed bin Salman‘s Saudi Arabia. The kingdom’s rulers clearly believe they have total impunity to flout international law when it suits them,” said the rights group’s director, Maya Foa.

Reprieve’s statement noted that the Saudi crown prince, also known as MBS, had said in a televised interview in 2018: “We have tried to minimise [the death penalty] … And we believe it will take one year, maybe a little bit more, to have it finished … We will not get it 100 percent, but to reduce it big time.”

However, Reprieve said the number of executions continues to rise under his rule, with four executions already reported this year.

While the oil-rich kingdom embarked upon a liberalisation drive, it has faced criticism over multiple human rights issues, including arrests of critics, restrictions on women, and the 2018 killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

“Saudi Arabia’s rulers clearly believe they have impunity to flout international law, and it is time the kingdom’s partners told them otherwise in the strongest possible terms,” Foa told Al Jazeera. 

NGOs boycott G20 meetings

The statement by Reprieve quoted Foa as saying: “A country that tortures and executes children should be a pariah state, not preparing to host the next meeting of the G20.”


Saudi Arabia took over the rotating G20 (Group of  20) presidency from Japan last year, becoming the first Arab nation to have the prestigious role of hosting the summit of the world’s largest industrialised and developing economies.

The next G20 summit is planned in November in Riyadh. This week, the kingdom will hold Civil 20 (C20) meetings with civil society groups from the 20 countries.

The C20 was established in 2013 as an official engagement group of the G20 to ensure world leaders hear outside voices from civil society.

However, three leading international NGOs announced on Monday they are boycotting the C20 meetings, The Associated Press news agency reported.

In a joint statement, Berlin-based Transparency International, Amnesty International and Johannesburg-based CIVICUS, an alliance of civil society organisations and activists, said they were calling on other groups to join their boycott as well.

Foa told Al Jazeera that the countries gathering to promote cooperation at the upcoming G20 summit in Riyadh would be seen as a “tacitly endorsing these egregious human rights abuses”.

“The US and the UK, in particular, must hold Mohammed bin Salman to his word and demand an end to the torture and execution of children in Saudi Arabia,” she said.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies