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Amnesty: Saudi Arabia executed record number of people in 2019

Saudi Arabia executed a record 184 people last year, according to Amnesty International, which said it was the highest number the rights organisation has ever recorded in a single year in the country. In its 2019 global review of the death penalty published on Tuesday, Amnesty reported Saudi Arabia stepped up its use of the death penalty even…

Amnesty: Saudi Arabia executed record number of people in 2019

Saudi Arabia executed a record 184 people last year, according to Amnesty International, which said it was the highest number the rights organisation has ever recorded in a single year in the country.
In its 2019 global review of the death penalty published on Tuesday, Amnesty reported Saudi Arabia stepped up its use of the death penalty even as the rest of the world saw a decline in executions.
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Saudi Arabia executed 178 men and six women in 2019, just over half of whom were foreign nationals. The figure was 149 in 2018.
The majority of executions were for drug-related offences and murder.
Only 20 countries are responsible for all known executions worldwide.
Iran remained the world’s second-most prolific executioner after China, where the exact number of people put to death remains a state secret. The number of executions nearly doubled in Iraq, the report added.
Global executions decreased for the fourth consecutive year to at least 657 in 2019 from at least 690 during the previous year – the lowest recorded figure of the past decade.
The top five executing countries in 2019 were: China (1000s), Iran (at least 251), Saudi Arabia (184), Iraq (at least 100) and Egypt (at least 32).
For the first time since 2010, no executions were carried out in Afghanistan.
The Asia-Pacific region also saw a decline in executions for the first time since 2011.
“The death penalty is an abhorrent and inhuman punishment and there is no credible evidence that it deters crime more than prison terms,” said Clare Algar, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for Research, Advocacy and Policy.
“A large majority of countries recognise this and it’s encouraging to see that executions continue to fall worldwide.”
Algar added that a small number of countries defied the global trend away from the death penalty by increasingly resorting to executions.
“Saudi Arabia’s growing use of the death penalty, including as a weapon against political dissidents, is an alarming development,” Algar said.
Political weapon
Amnesty International also documented the increased use of the death penalty against those from Saudi Arabia’s Shia Muslim minority.
On April 23, 2019, there was a mass execution of 37 people of whom 32 were Shia men convicted on “terrorism” charges following trials that relied on false confessions extracted through torture, it said.
Individuals are brought before Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court (SCC), which was set up in 2008 to try those accused of terror-related crimes but is increasingly used to suppress dissent, according to Amnesty.
In Iraq, the number of people executed almost doubled from at least 52 in 2018 to at least 100 in 2019, mostly due to the executions of individuals accused of being members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS).
In South Sudan, authorities executed at least 11 people in 2019, the highest number recorded since the country’s independence in 2011.
Bahrain also resumed executions after a one-year hiatus, putting three people to death during the year.
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Amnesty

Amnesty video shows ‘extreme overcrowding’ in Cambodia prison

Amnesty International has shared a new video it received that claims to show extreme overcrowding and “inhumane conditions” in a Cambodian prison amid the coronavirus pandemic. The video, released on Friday, shows at least 25 prisoners crammed into a small cell and lying on the floor. There is hardly any space for them to move,…

Amnesty video shows ‘extreme overcrowding’ in Cambodia prison

Amnesty International has shared a new video it received that claims to show extreme overcrowding and “inhumane conditions” in a Cambodian prison amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The video, released on Friday, shows at least 25 prisoners crammed into a small cell and lying on the floor.
There is hardly any space for them to move, prompting Amnesty to label it “first-hand evidence of the inhumane conditions” in Cambodian prisons.
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An Interior Ministry’s department of prisons spokesperson, Nouth Savna, told Al Jazeera he had not seen the video but acknowledged that severe overcrowding occurs in prisons.
“Yes, it does happen. I’m not going to deny it,” he said when shared with the conditions visible in the video, adding that it was a “temporary problem” as Cambodia has been working to address the issue by building new facilities.
He added that issues were a lot more systemic and, for example, caused by a slow judiciary.
Cambodian prisons had a capacity of about 15,000 inmates three years ago. Savna estimated it has increased to 27,000 now. But Cambodia currently hosts 38,000 prisoners, he added. 

We’ve received shocking footage from Cambodia, revealing the inhumane conditions inside one of its prisons. Such extreme overcrowding is a ticking time bomb for a #COVID19 outbreak. Cambodian authorities must immediately address this overcrowding crisis. pic.twitter.com/DWv8qf8uyD
— Amnesty International (@amnesty) April 10, 2020

Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), said the video was “just the tip of the iceberg of egregious, totally out of control prison crowding in Cambodia”.
David Griffiths, director in the office of the secretary-general at Amnesty International, said in a press release: “These deplorable conditions make a mockery of ‘physical distancing’ and show the Cambodian authorities’ utter neglect for these inmates’ basic rights, even during a pandemic.”
“These conditions were never acceptable. Today they are completely unconscionable. The authorities must urgently ease this overcrowding crisis while giving all detainees access to appropriate healthcare without discrimination,” said Griffiths. 
Limited resources 
Savna added that officials have taken a number of measures to stem the flow of COVID-19 in prisons, including suspending visits, having automatic spray sanitiser at the entrance, increasing soaps and detergents, and cleaning the facilities with chloride more regularly.
He added that new prisoners were quarantined in separate rooms for 14 days where they were kept in individual beds at three to five metres (9.8-16 feet) distance.
“At the moment, there hasn’t been any reported case,” he said. “But every day is like a ticking time bomb. We never know.
“We don’t have the luxury for testing everyone,” he said. “It costs a lot of money, and that money needs to be saved or kept for emergency.”
Director of a Cambodian human rights organisation Licadho Naly Pilorge said the government should prioritise bail and trial hearings of people charged with non-violent offences, to slow down the spread of the coronavirus, especially pregnant women or women imprisoned with infants and young children, as well as juvenile detainees, elderly, and detainees with mental or physical disabilities.
“One of the risks of overcrowding in prisons is that diseases such as tuberculosis and other respiratory illnesses can spread very quickly among both detainees and prison staff,” she told Al Jazeera. “You cannot practice social distancing in overcrowded cells with thousands of prisoners who lack adequate access to soap and water.”
The United Nations human rights special rapporteur has similarly urged Cambodia to use pre-trial detention only when absolutely necessary, and warned of severe overcrowding in prisons.
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