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Saudi Arabia Has Already Topped Last Year’s Total Number of Executions

The beheadings of two men Tuesday are the latest, adding to a soaring execution rate in the Middle East nation.
May 26, 2015, 3:03pm
Photo by Yoan Valat/AP

The number of executions conducted by Saudi Arabia in the first five months of 2015 has already exceeded the total number of people executed in the Middle Eastern country last year.

The latest beheadings of convicted drug smugglers Awad al-Rowaili and Lafi al-Shammary were carried out Tuesday amid concerns from human rights activists about the country's soaring rate of executions for non-violent offenses.

Murder and drug-related crimes account for a majority of Saudi Arabia's executions.

The two men — both Saudi nationals — were put to death in the northern region of Jawf, Saudi Arabia's interior ministry said in a statement, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

Another Saudi man, convicted murderer Mohammed al-Shihri, was killed in a separate execution in the southwestern region of Asir, AFP reported.

Related: Three Countries Were Responsible for 70 Percent of the World's Executions in 2014

The total number of deaths as of May 26 in Saudi Arabia has now reached at least 88, according to reports. Last year, the country conducted 87 executions, making it one of the top five countries to put people to death in 2014, according to Human Rights Watch figures.

Amnesty International claims, however, that some 90 people were executed in Saudi Arabia last year.

Among those executed last year, about half were Saudi. The remainder was from Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Jordan, India, Indonesia, Burma, Chad, Eritrea, the Philippines, and Sudan, according to the BBC_._

Earlier in May, reports emerged that Saudi Arabia, a member of the UN's Human Rights Council and a close US ally, had released application forms to recruit eight more executioners to carry out beheadings and perform other execution-related activities, including amputations on those who committed smaller offenses, according to a report from Reuters.

The country has not commented on the surge in executions, but some have noted the correlation between the appointment of additional judges to Saudi's justice system that will be able to handle a higher case load, Reuters reported.

The reported figure on executions was revealed four months after Saudi Arabia's King Salman took over the leadership after the death of his half brother, King Abdullah. After ascending to the throne, Salman has sought to overhaul segments of the government, but has largely left the judicial sector, characterized by its conservative bent and populated by older officials, largely untouched.

VICE News' Arijeta Lajka contributed to this report.