UN alarmed at jump in Saudi executions
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Friday said it was alarmed at the almost threefold increase in the use of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia last year.
"We are alarmed at the significant increase in the use of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia in 2011," said spokesman Rupert Colville at a regular press briefing.
Saudi Arabia applies the death penalty for a wide range of offences.
"What is even more worrying is that court proceedings often reportedly fall far short of international fair trial standards, and the use of torture as a means to obtain confessions appears to be rampant," he added.
At least 76 death row inmates were executed in 2011, according to an AFP count, while Amnesty International believes that Saudi Arabia carried out at least 79 executions during this period.
In 2010, 27 people were executed, according to the UN, citing a report by Human Rights Watch.
Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are punishable by death in Saudi Arabia, which strictly applies sharia or Islamic law.
So-called cross amputation of the right hand and left foot is applied in cases of highway robbery, according to the UN.
"We call on the authorities to halt the use of such cruel, inhuman, degrading punishment. As a party to the Convention against Torture, Saudi Arabia is bound by the absolute prohibition against the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment," Colville said.
© 2012 AFP