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Dozens Beheaded as Saudis Unsuccessfully Try to Stem Drug Traffic


June 1993

The beheading of drug dealers and other criminals by Saudi authorities is proceeding at record pace this year with no discernible impact on drug traffic, observers say (Caryle Murphy, "Saudi Beheadings Running At A Record Pace: 40 Executed So Far This Year, But Critics Say Practice Fails To Deter Drug Traffic," Washington Post, 5/8/93, A14).

A total of 40 persons have been beheaded this year, half of them for drug trafficking. One of those beheaded died for illegally brewing and distributing alcohol, another for smuggling hashish. Drug trafficking, rape, murder, armed robbery, adultery, and apostasy are capital crimes. Drug trafficking became a capital offense in 1987.

Beheadings are public, and the bodies of victims are sometimes displayed for days. Criminal trials rely heavily on so-called "confessions" from defendants, often obtained from prisoners held incommunicado and subjected to beatings and other abuse. Trials are closed, usually brief, and held before panels composed of a prison director, interrogator, and Islamically trained judge, sometimes in the middle of the night. Defendants are not permitted to have lawyers present at the proceedings, and are often unaware that they may request lawyers for pre-trial consultations. No counsel is provided to those unable to afford one.