- The Gulf kingdom beheaded 69 people in 2012, says Human Rights Watch
- Rape, murder, armed robbery and drug trafficking all punishable by death
PUBLISHED: 04:13 EST, 11 March 2013 | UPDATED: 06:24 EST, 11 March 2013
Saudi Arabia is considering dropping public beheadings as a method of execution because of a shortage of government swordsmen in the oil-rich kingdom.
A joint Saudi committee composed of representatives of the ministries of interior, justice and health has instead proposed firing squads for capital sentences.
The committee argued that the measure, if adopted, would not violate Islamic law, allowing heads – or emirs – of the country’s 13 local administrative regions to begin using the new method when needed.
New measure: A committee based in the Saudi capital Riyadh (pictured) is considering dropping public beheadings because of a lack of swordsmen
The Daily Mirror in Sri Lanka reported that the committee said in a statement: ‘This solution seems practical, especially in light of shortages in official swordsmen or their belated arrival to execution yards in some incidents; the aim is to avoid interruption of the regularly-taken security arrangements.’
The ultra-conservative Gulf kingdom beheaded 76 people in 2012, according to an AFP tally based on official figures. Human Rights Watch (HRW) put the number at 69.
Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia’s strict version of Sharia, or Islamic Law. So far this year, three people have been executed.
Death by beheading has always been a source of tension between Saudi Arabia and the international community.
There was international outcry, including from human rights groups, after a Sri Lankan maid, Rizana Nafeek, was beheaded in public by sword last month.
Death by beheading has always been a source of tension between Saudi Arabia (capital Riyadh pictured) and the international community
Executed: Sri Lankan maid Rizana Nafeek was beheaded despite international appeals for her release
Miss Nafeek was sentenced to death aged 17 in 2007 after her Saudi employer accused her of strangling his four-month-old baby two years earlier after a dispute with the child’s mother.
A government spokesman said Riyadh: ‘deplores the statements made… about the execution of a Sri Lankan maid who had plotted and killed an infant by suffocating him to death one week after she arrived in the kingdom.’
The case soured the kingdom’s diplomatic relations with Sri Lanka, which on Thursday recalled its ambassador to Saudi Arabia in protest.
The UN’s main human rights body on Friday expressed ‘deep dismay’ at the beheading, while the European Union said it had asked Saudi authorities to commute the death penalty.
Riyadh, however, rejected the statements as ‘external interference’ in its domestic affairs.
The spokesman said: Saudi Arabia ‘respects… all rules and laws and protects the rights of its people and residents, and completely rejects any intervention in its affairs and judicial verdicts, whatever the excuse.’
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