Saudi Arabia marks its 90th execution this year, setting gruesome record


© Flickr/ Yasser Abusen

Amid a number of human rights complaints over the practice, Saudi Arabia's latest execution brings 2015's total to 90. Already equaling the total number from 2014, the kingdom continues to break its own record.

"With the year yet to pass its midpoint, the Gulf Kingdom has raced towards this choking toll at an unprecedented rate. This alarming surge in executions surpasses even the country's own previous dreadful records," Said Boumedouha, Deputy Middle East and North Africa programme director at Amnesty International, told .

Nearly half of Saudi Arabia's executions this year relate to minor drug-related charges. The latest, carried out in Riyadh on Thursday, was no different, despite the fact that the use of capital punishment for such minor offenses is considered a breach of international law.

While some of the executions are conducted by firing squad, many are public beheadings.

Earlier this month, the kingdom beheaded five foreigners and then hung the bodies from a helicopter in order to deter other would-be criminals.

The death penalty is often handed down after unfair trials, and the Saudi Supreme Court has recently ruled that judges can issue the punishment without having to prove guilt.

"The Saudi Arabian authorities' unwavering commitment to this brutal form of punishment is utterly gruesome considering the deep flaws in its justice system," Boumedouha said.

Ads posted by the Saudi government earlier this month indicated that Riyadh was looking to fill positions for eight new "religious functionaries." These low-wage civil employees would carry out the country's growing number of executions.

Despite the fact that the executions are often carried out in public, filming of the act is an arrestable offense.

Saudi authorities maintain that the death penalty is necessary for "maintaining security and realizing justice," and rape, murder, drug trafficking, armed robbery, and apostasy are all punishable by death.

Amnesty International has repeatedly criticized the executions, calling this year's rise a "macabre spike."

"The use of the death penalty is cruel and inhumane in any circumstance, but it is even more outrageous when meted out as a punishment against someone convicted in a trial that makes a mockery of justice," Boumedouha added.

Yet despite international condemnation, Saudi Arabia has reportedly been lobbying the United Nations to become the next head of the Human Rights Council after Germany completes its term. Those reports stunned rights activists.

"Electing Saudi Arabia as the world's judge on human rights would be like making a pyromaniac as the town fire chief," Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, said in a statement.