Saudi Arabia said Monday that 27 people were executed in the kingdom last year, the lowest number since at least 2013, according to two human rights organizations that track the use of the death penalty in the kingdom, The Washington Post reported.
The drop in executions appeared partly linked to coronavirus lockdowns, as well as an “unofficial” moratorium on executions for some nonviolent offenses, the two organizations, Reprieve and the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights, said in a joint statement released Monday.
Saudi Arabia’s government-run Human Rights Commission said in a statement that the 27 executions in 2020 represented an 85 percent decrease from the previous year.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who serves as the kingdom’s day-to-day ruler, spoke publicly about abolishing the death penalty for some crimes two years ago. In April, the government announced that minors would no longer face the death penalty in certain cases.
In the past, Saudi Arabia’s frequent use of the death penalty, including in mass executions, had earned the kingdom international criticism and notoriety as a global leader in capital punishment, along with China and Iran.
A Saudi official told The Washington Post in August that the kingdom was in the process of revising penalties for drug-related crimes and that a decision to abolish capital punishment for such offenses was expected “very soon.”
Nearly 40 percent of the roughly 800 executions carried out in the kingdom over the past five years were for crimes such as drug trafficking, according to Reprieve, which advocates for the abolition of capital punishment.