The use of capital punishment in Saudi Arabia is based on Shari’ah (or Islamic law) and is condemned internationally because of the wide range of crimes which can result in the death penalty and because it is usually carried out by public beheading. In 2011, the Saudi government reported 26 executions in the country.[1] Amnesty International counted a minimum of 79 in 2013.[2] Foreigners are not exempt, accounting for “almost half” of executions in 2013.[2] In fact, there are many foreigners (especially those from the developing world) who are routinely executed mainly for drug smuggling and murder. There has not been any report of a Western national being executed in the recent history of Saudi Arabia.[3]

Unlike executions in most other countries that have not abolished the death penalty, executions of offenders are not performed privately in prisons, but publicly in central Riyadh, and have been called the “only form of public entertainment” in Saudi Arabia “apart from football matches”.[4] It is one of the last four countries to still carry out public executions and the only country to carry them on regularly.