Babylon NEOM

Saudi Arabia: Beheadings reach highest level in two decades

Blog note: The killing of Jamal Khashoggi has geo-political and prophetic significance. It has exposed the extremes that the Saudi Government will go to ‘silence’ even the smallest or greatest of dissent and criticism. It also showcases the growing evil behind Mohammed Bin Salman and the cult of obedience to him. He is highly regarded by his millennial generation (he is in his early 30’s) and is widely considered the future face of the country. He is also in line to become the 8th King of Saudi Arabia from the House of Saud. However, his track record in the very few short years he has been on the stage in the Middle East is worrisome. Yes, there have been despots and dictators all over the Middle East for decades. Nothing new. HOWEVER, the power that is coalescing around Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) is worrisome because of the role Saudi Arabia plays in the Middle East, its size and influence with OPEC, its role as one of the largest oil producers in the world, its relationship with the U.S./Trump over arms deals, its oil agreements with Putin/Russia and so on. Strangely, Saudi Arabia and ‘MBS’ have sided with Israel, since IRAN is both Israel’s and Saudi Arabia’s nemesis in the Middle East. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. This is a fairly recent development and has further prophetic implications because other Arab countries tend to follow the Saudi’s lead. Mohammed Bin Salman has that much political and financial muscle with most of his Arab brethren. All of this on-top of the pending ‘deal of the century’ by Donald Trump to offer or create an ‘agreement’ (covenant) of ‘peace and safety’ or ‘peace and security’ between Israel and the Palestinians. The so-called ‘two state solution’. Jared Kushner, Trump’s creative genius behind crafting the plan has routinely met with and conferred with Mohammed Bin Salman during the construction of this ‘peace’ plan. Presumably, whatever peace plan is unveiled and agreed upon between the parties will have to gain wider acceptance in the region by means of a ‘confirmation’ or verification that everyone in the region will abide by the covenant or agreement. Perhaps it will be up to the MBS and Saudi Arabia to police and ensure that the plan will be enforced and actively implemented by all those concerned. The ‘Big Brother’ in the region will make sure everyone toes the line and doesn’t cross the agreement. Who in the region might have the ‘political weight’ or strength to solidly ‘confirm’ the ‘covenant of peace and security’ for Israel? Mohammed Bin Salman. End of note.

Blog note 2. If you have followed the world wide reaction to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, most world leaders are tip-toeing around doing anything constructive against Saudi Arabia and Mohammed Bin Salman. Excuses have ranged from protecting arms deals, to keep the oil flowing, to maintain ‘stability’ in the Middle East (keep the status quo), to keep the allegiance and alliance together against Iran and so forth. There are higher geo-political issues at stake than severing political, military and financial relationships with Saudi Arabia and MBS because the Saudi’s killed a dissenter. MBS will come out of this relatively unscathed. Already, there are scapegoats and fall-guys. Nothing new here. No one wants to touch Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) for all these reasons and more. Oh, by the way, follow the BIG-BIG-BIG money… The recent investment initiative held in Saudi Arabia still drew some of the world’s biggest money kingpins from Japan and Europe. Even with some invited attendees sitting out the conference because of the Khashoggi killing, Saudi Arabia still received commitments of an additional $50 Billion investment funds. This is on TOP of a $2 Trillion sovereign investment fund that MBS has set up to fund his ‘vision 2030’ agenda and NEOM, a $500 Billion Babylon/high-tech oasis in Saudi Arabia that is planned to be 26,500-square km (10,230-square mile) business and industrial zone that will sit on the intersection of three countries, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt and is on both the Red Sea and Sea of Aqaba.  It will be 17X the size of London and 22X the size of New York. All of these are the Great Convergence of Signs. End of note.

Saudi Arabia: beheadings reach highest level in two decades

Number of people executed for non-lethal offences and drug-related crimes is on the rise in the kingdom, which follows Sharia law

Associated Press. Fri 1 Jan 2016 20.18 EST

Saudi Arabia carried out at least 157 executions in 2015, with beheadings reaching their highest level in the kingdom in two decades, according to several advocacy groups that monitor the death penalty worldwide.

Coinciding with the rise in executions is the number of people executed for non-lethal offences that judges have discretion to rule on, particularly for drug-related crimes. Amnesty International said in November that at least 63 people had been executed since the start of the year for drug-related offences. That figure made up at least 40% of the total number of executions in 2015, compared to less than 4% for drug-related executions in 2010.

Amnesty said Saudi Arabia had exceeded its highest level of executions since 1995, when 192 executions were recorded.

While some crimes, such as premeditated murder, carry fixed punishments under Saudi Arabia’s interpretation of the Islamic law, or Shariah, drug-related offences are considered “ta’zir”, meaning neither the crime nor the punishment is defined in Islam. Discretionary judgments for “ta’zir” crimes have led to arbitrary rulings with contentious outcomes.

In a lengthy report issued in August, Amnesty International noted the case of Lafi al-Shammari, a Saudi national with no previous criminal record who was executed in mid-2015 for drug trafficking. The person arrested with him and charged with the same offences received a 10-year prison sentence, despite having prior arrests related to drug trafficking.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) found that of the first 100 prisoners executed in 2015, 56 had been based on judicial discretion and not for crimes for which Islamic law mandates a specific death penalty punishment. Shariah scholars hold vastly different views on the application of the death penalty, particularly for cases of “ta’zir.”

Delphine Lourtau, research director at Cornell Law School’s Death Penalty Worldwide, adds that there are Shariah law experts “whose views are that procedural safeguards surrounding capital punishment are so stringent that they make death penalty almost virtually impossible.”

She says in Saudi Arabia, defendants are not provided defence lawyers and in numerous cases of South Asians arrested for drug trafficking, they are not provided translators in court hearings. She said there are also questions “over the degree of influence the executive has on trial outcomes” when it comes to cases where Shia activists are sentenced to death.

Emory Law professor and Shariah scholar Abdullahi An-Naim said because there is an “inherent infallibility in court systems,” no judicial system can claim to enforce an immutable, infallible form of Shariah. “There is a gap between what Islam is and what Islam is as understood by human beings,” he said. “Shariah was never intended to be coercively applied by the state.”

Similar to how the US Constitution is seen as a living document with interpretations that have expanded over the years, more so is the Quran, which serves as a cornerstone of Shariah, he said. Of Islam’s four major schools of thought, the underpinning of Saudi Arabia’s legal system is based on the most conservative Hanbali branch and an ideology widely known as Wahhabism. A 2005 royal decree issued in Saudi Arabia to fight drugs further codified the right of judges to issue execution sentences “as a discretionary penalty” against any person found guilty of smuggling, receiving, or manufacturing narcotics.

HRW’s Middle East researcher Adam Coolge said Saudi Arabia executed 158 people in total in 2015 compared to 90 the year before. Catherine Higham, a caseworker for Reprieve, which works against the death penalty worldwide, says her organisation documented 157 executions in the kingdom. Saudi Arabia does not release annual tallies, though it does announce individual executions in state media throughout the year.

Saudi law allows for execution in cases of murder, drug offenses and rape. Though seldom carried out, the death penalty also applies to adultery, apostasy and witchcraft. In defense of how Saudi Arabia applies Shariah, the kingdom’s representative to the UN Human Rights Council, Bandar al-Aiban, said in an address in Geneva in March that capital punishment applies “only (to) those who commit heinous crimes that threaten security.”

Because Saudi Arabia carries out most executions through beheading and sometimes in public, it has been compared to the extremist Islamic State group, which also carries out public beheadings and claims to be implementing Shariah.

Saudi Arabia strongly rejects this. In December, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters in Paris “it’s easy to say Wahhabism equals Daesh equals terrorism, which is not true.” Daesh is the Arabic acronym for the IS group. Unlike the extrajudicial beheadings IS carries out against hostages and others, the kingdom says its judiciary process requires at least 13 judges at three levels of court to rule in favor of a death sentence before it is carried out. Saudi officials also argue executions are aimed at combating crime.

Even with the kingdom’s record level of executions in 2015, Amnesty International says China, where information about the death penalty is a “state secret,” is believed to execute more individuals that the rest of the world’s figures combined. Reprieve says that in Iran, more than 1,000 people were executed in 2015. Another organization called Iran Human Rights, which is based in Oslo, Norway, and closely follows executions, said at least 648 people had been executed in the first six months of 2015 in the Islamic Republic, with more than two-thirds for drug offenses.

Reprieve says Pakistan has executed at least 315 people in 2015, after the country lifted a moratorium on executions early last year following a December 2014 Taliban attack on a school that killed 150 people, most of them children. Only a fraction of those executed since then have been people convicted of a terrorist attack.

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