SAUDI ARABIA

Crimes Punishable by Death

Aggravated Murder.
Aggravated murder may be punishable by death as both hadd and qisas. [26] This offense may include (but not be limited to) offenses such as murder during robbery or murder involving seclusion, treachery, or other methods rendering the victim helpless (or that have the effect of spreading terror)—in this case, the murder may be punished by death as hadd. This may not be the Hanbali position, but one Al-Adl (a journal published by the Saudi Ministry of Justice) article adopted this position. [27]

Murder.
Murder is punishable by death as qisas. [28] “Islamic law presumes that any sane person who intentionally kills a person with a weapon, is a sinner deserving perdition according to the Qur’an and that the murderer is subject to retaliation.” [29] Murder is punishable by death as qisas (retaliation) or diya (compensation instead of execution), but there is some disagreement over which circumstances allow qisas. According to the Hanbali schools of Sunni Islam, the offender is subject to death as qisas if “the killer intended to kill and employed some means likely to have that result.” [30] It is also possible that courts might apply the principle that intentional killing or intentional infliction of serious and permanent bodily harm allows application of the talion principle [31] and therefore the death penalty if the offense results in death.

Other Offenses Resulting in Death.
Killing without intent may be punishable by death as hadd, but probably not as qisas. [32] This offense may include (but might not be limited to) robbery resulting in death. For most schools, including the Hanbali school, all participants in a group robbery resulting in death were punishable by death, regardless of cause or intent. [33]

Terrorism-Related Offenses Resulting in Death.
By Fatwa issued on August 30, 1988, acts of terrorism (as “corruption on earth”) carry the mandatory death penalty; the ambit of this Fatwa is unclear. [34] The description of this offense as “corruption on earth” suggests that the penalty may be hadd. “Contemporary scholars of Islamic Shari’a adopt the view that terrorism is included under the crime of hiraba, or waging war against God and his Apostle and making or spreading corruption on earth,” [35] although analysis on this matter has not been comprehensive, [36] and the position seems more developed by the Maliki school of Sunni Islam and the Shi’a schools than by the Hanbali school. [37]

Terrorism-Related Offenses Not Resulting in Death.
By Fatwa issued on August 30, 1988, acts of terrorism (as “corruption on earth”) may carry the mandatory death penalty; the Fatwa does not specify that such acts must result in death, and its ambit is unclear. [38] The description of this offense as “corruption on earth” could suggest that the penalty is hadd, although it would not be traditional in the Hanbali school (or most schools of Sunni Islam) to apply the death penalty as hadd for non-lethal corruption on earth. [39]

Rape Not Resulting in Death.
Rape is punishable by death as hadd or ta’zir, depending on the circumstances. [40] For a fuller explanation, see our comments—because the evidentiary requirements for this hadd are demanding, it is more likely that the death penalty is applied as ta’zir for aggravated rape. For instance, rape is reported to result in the death penalty, [41] and further investigation shows that the offender was a serial rapist who secluded and robbed his victims. [42]

Robbery Not Resulting in Death.
Robbery is punishable by death as hadd, but in most schools (including the Hanbali school) only when resulting in death. [43] Otherwise, the death penalty might apply as ta’zir under circumstances such as recidivism or where the offense is aggravated. [44] For instance, a group armed robbery in which a woman was bound, gagged and held at knifepoint in her home [45] and an offense involving rape and armed robbery [46] led to executions, reportedly, at least in part on the grounds of armed robbery. For a fuller explanation, see our comments.

Arson Not Resulting in Death.
Some forms of arson might carry a statutory death penalty under a Fatwa on terrorism-related activities. [47]

Burglary Not Resulting in Death.
Burglary can be punished by death as ta’zir under the Hanbali school (and others) of Sunni Islam when there are aggravating circumstances, [48] including recidivism. [49] Burglary has been punished by death when it resulted in armed robbery. [50]

Drug Trafficking Resulting in Death.
According to Amnesty International, under a Fatwa issued around 1987 the death penalty became mandatory for a number of drug offenses; [51] under Royal Decree no. 39 of 2005, the death penalty apparently became discretionary for drug trafficking [52] —although other penalties might be applied for offenses resulting in death.

Drug Trafficking Not Resulting in Death.
According to Amnesty International, under Royal Decree no. 39 of 2005, the death penalty is applicable for the first offense of drug trafficking, receiving drugs from a trafficker, importing, exporting, manufacturing extracting or growing drugs, or for the recidivist offense of circulating drugs “by selling, donation, distribution, delivery, reception or transportation.” [53]

Drug Possession.
An article published in Al-Adl indicates that not all Saudi appellate courts agree on the correct application of narcotics laws to those who possess drugs—some arguing that those who possess requisite amounts should be presumed to be engaged in trafficking, others arguing that possession should be considered trafficking based on other factors. (A finding of trafficking could trigger the death penalty under Royal Decree no. 39 of 2005). [54]

Adultery.
Zina carries the death penalty as hadd for married persons (and lashing for unmarried persons), under demanding evidentiary showings. [55] For a fuller explanation, see our comments.

Apostasy.
In Saudi Arabia, individuals can be and have been sentenced to death and executed for apostasy. [56] Although there is no contemporary consensus on the treatment of apostasy, it is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia. [57] The death penalty for apostasy may be ta’zir, as the Hanbali school does not consider apostasy to carry a hadd punishment, while still allowing for the death penalty. [58] Traditionally, apostates are afforded a period of time to turn back to Islam, [59] but the death penalty still applies under this rule (in jurisdictions that provide for it)—an individual who persists in his opinion will be executed, thus, there is ultimately no freedom to publically adhere to a divergent opinion without being executed. [60]

Consensual Sexual Relations Between Adults of Same Sex.
Judges reportedly treat gay and lesbian sexual relations as zina, applying the penalty of death or lashing according to the circumstances. [61] The schools of Sunni Islam take different positions on the treatment of homosexual and lesbian acts. The Hanbali school treated male sodomy as carrying the penalty of death as hadd, regardless of the marital status of the offender, while lesbianism was punished (under all schools) as a ta’zir offense. In this regard, Saudi jurisprudence is heterodox in that it treats lesbianism as punishable as hadd. [62] The evidentiary requirements for inflicting a hadd penalty are demanding—for further explanation, see our comments.

Treason.
We did not find any codified law on the offense of treason. The conditions under which treason was historically punished by death have been limited. Some scholars have confused the hadd penalty of death for rebellion—which was seen as treason—as a judicially enforceable penalty, but a discussion of the offense of rebellion shows that the hadd penalty, as conceived of by most schools, simply included the right of the ruler to kill when necessary in subduing a rebellion, which might include the right to pursue and dispatch fleeing rebels. Judicially inflicting the death penalty as hadd would require a finding that the rebel was actually spreading “corruption on earth” due to his actions (such as spreading terror) or because the rebel did not espouse a reasonably legitimate cause. This proof is not as simple as demonstrating that the rebel opposed a just authority—and in fact, for most schools (historically) the finding did not turn on whether the authority was just or the rebel was correct. In some cases, groups with heterodox beliefs may have been considered rebels, or, instead, corrupt on earth (these are not the same), although whether this carried a judicial penalty is unclear from the sources we referenced. [63] The Hanbali school of law does not treat rebellion as carrying religiously stipulated penalties, [64] so it may be that the death penalty for treason in Saudi Arabia is awarded as hadd when the offenders are guilty of spreading corruption on earth or as ta’zir if they are simply guilty of rebellion. Amnesty International suggests that the category of “corrupt on earth” is used as a justification for ta’zir punishment of political crimes, and does not differentiate between rebellion and corruption on earth; we are not sure whether this is due to a lack of clarity about the law or to judicial practices. [65] It might be likely that the death penalty as hadd for treasonable offenses would usually be construed as a penalty for terrorism.

Espionage.
The death penalty might be applied as ta’zir for espionage. [66]

Military Offenses Not Resulting in Death.
Offenses such as treason and disloyalty are punished severely; other offenses would seem not to carry the death penalty (except when falling under the jurisdiction of a Sharia court, which might apply the death penalty). [67] We did not find any recent statutory law or description of the punishment of offenses by military personnel.

Other Offenses Not Resulting in Death.
– Consumption of Intoxicants. Partaking of intoxicants has been considered a hadd offense with the penalty of whipping. [68] Recidivism might be a grounds for execution; [69] one Al-Adl article suggests that execution is possible for recidivist alcohol consumption and that some jurists might consider the death penalty for recidivism hadd. [70] Consumption of any intoxicant could be treated similarly to consumption of alcohol. [71]
– Sorcery or Witchcraft. Sorcery or witchcraft has been punished by death; [72] this is a ta’zir penalty. [73]
– Ta’zir Offenses. The previous entries discuss statutory penalties (hadd, qisas, or codified penalties) and confirmable cases where death penalties could be awarded as ta’zir. This is not necessarily a full representation of offenses punishable by death, because the death penalty might be awarded as ta’zir “where either the offense itself is of a very serious nature, such as spying for the enemy, propagating heretical doctrines, or practices which split the community, or the criminal is a habitual offender whose wickedness can only be so stopped.” [74] The death penalty might also be awarded as an enhanced punishment for a statutory offense, under some schools. [75] Reports indicate that such punishments do occur. [76]

Does the country have a mandatory death penalty?

Yes. Saudi jurists apply the mandatory death penalty for a wide range of offenses, although traditionally each mandatory death penalty is different in its application.

Hudud offenses are considered claims of God, and are described in the Quran, although the penalty for a hadd (singular) offense is usually found in the Sunna. [77] These penalties can “neither be reduced nor augmented.” [78] A hadd penalty should not be awarded unless stringent evidentiary requirements are met, [79] and scholars point out rules suggesting that courts should avoid applying hudud penalties whenever possible. [80] To some extent, this can limit the mandatory nature of the death penalty for hadd offenses, by making it extremely difficult to apply them. It might be possible for Saudi courts to achieve a discretionary, non-arbitrary standard by limiting application of hudud penalties to cases that are particularly egregious and unmitigated by any form of doubt, but we have seen no evidence that Saudi courts apply hadd penalties in a narrow, non-arbitrary fashion—so the death penalty as hadd can be considered mandatory in Saudi Arabia.

Qisas offenses are considered offenses against the individual’s body (such as murder or harm), and some presumptive penalties (and alternatives) are described in the Quran and developed in the Sunna and schools of Islam. These penalties are mandatory in that the victim’s kin (in the case of murder) can freely forgive the murderer or demand compensation in lieu of execution, but otherwise the death penalty is awarded as qisas, ultimately rendering the sentencing decision a non-judicial decision. [81] Under the Hanbali school, traditionally if any heir did not agree to forgive the offender, blood money was payable, [82] and a similar rule may apply in Saudi Arabia. [83] In any case a review of “intentional” murders for which the offenders face the death penalty unless they reach a private settlement with the family will illustrate the degree to which this system fails to incorporate a discretionary aspect that considers relevant factors such as the offender’s culpability and the nature of the offense. [84] At least one scholar has described how Shari’a courts might use discretionary sentencing while still allowing for the qisas-diya system for murder, [85] but there is currently no argument that the Saudi system incorporates a non-arbitrary discretionary aspect to sentencing for murder. The death penalty as qisas is mandatory in Saudi Arabia.

Some penalties might be considered hadd or ta’zir, but in any case as codified the mandatory death penalty applies. [86]

Finally, ta’zir penalties are discretionary (unless they are, by a statute, defined as mandatory), but it is relevant whether courts apply the death penalty in a mandatory fashion. For instance, the death penalty for apostasy is ta’zir under the Hanbali school, but the traditional Hanbali position was still that the death penalty should be applied. [87] Commentary in Al-Adl, a journal published by the Saudi Ministry of Justice, indicates some disagreement over whether the death penalty for some recidivist offenses is hadd or ta’zir. [88] While we do not enumerate these as carrying the mandatory death penalty, further research could show that the death penalty is applied in a mandatory fashion for these or other offenses. Arbitrariness or unequal treatment of different defendants due to different standards of judging during the trial might be limited by the requirement of unanimity among 5-judge appeals panels charged with confirming the death penalty for discretionary sentences [89] —presumably, this requirement could conform sentencing to discretionary standards, but it might not if judges agreed that a ta’zir offense should carry the death penalty regardless of individual circumstances.

For Which Offenses, If Any, Is a Mandatory Death Sentence Imposed?

Aggravated Murder.
Aggravated murder may be punishable by death as both hadd and qisas. [90]

Murder.
Murder is punishable by death as qisas. [91]

Other Offenses Resulting in Death.
Killing without intent may be punishable by death as hadd, but probably not as qisas. [92] The penalty may apply to all participants in an armed robbery resulting in death, regardless of individual cause or intent.

Terrorism-Related Offenses Resulting in Death.
By Fatwa issued on August 30, 1988, acts of terrorism (as “corruption on earth”) carry the mandatory death penalty; the ambit of this Fatwa is unclear. [93]

Terrorism-Related Offenses Not Resulting in Death.
By Fatwa issued on August 30, 1988, acts of terrorism (as “corruption on earth”) carry the statutory mandatory death penalty; the Fatwa does not specify that such acts must result in death, and its ambit is unclear. [94]

Rape Not Resulting in Death.
Rape is punishable by death as hadd or ta’zir, depending on proof. [95]

Drug Trafficking Resulting in Death.
According to Amnesty International, under a Fatwa issued March 11, 1987 the death penalty became mandatory for a number of drug offenses; [96] under Royal Decree no. 39 of 2005, the death penalty apparently became discretionary for drug trafficking. [97] However, a killing during drug trafficking might be treated as a hadd or qisas offense, depending on the circumstances.

Adultery.
Zina carries the death penalty as hadd for married persons (and lashing for unmarried persons), under demanding evidentiary showings. [98] Under traditional rules (discussed in the preceding questions and their Comments), execution of a death sentence for adultery might be unlikely.

Consensual Sexual Relations Between Adults of Same Sex.
Judges reportedly treat gay and lesbian sexual relations as zina, applying the penalty of death or lashing according to the circumstances. [99] In Saudi Arabia, the death penalty for homosexual sodomy or lesbianism applies as hadd, depending on proof. [100]

Treason.
Treason might carry a hadd death penalty, although the circumstances under which a judicial hadd penalty would traditionally apply might be limited to terrorism-related offenses, or might include holding heterodox opinions–without more information we cannot describe the scope of this offense in Saudi Arabia.

Crimes For Which Individuals Have Been Executed Since January 2008:

Aggravated Murder. [101]

Murder. [102]

Other Offenses Resulting in Death. [103]

Rape Not Resulting in Death.
(Aggravated Rape). [104]

Robbery Not Resulting in Death.
(Aggravated Robbery). [105]

Burglary Not Resulting in Death.
(Aggravated Burglary). [106]

Kidnapping Not Resulting in Death. [107]
Individuals have been executed for offenses that included kidnapping; it is unclear whether individuals have been executed simply for kidnapping. We did not categorize kidnapping as a separate death eligible offense recognized by any specific law, but it is possible that death sentences were awarded as ta’zir for kidnapping.

Drug Trafficking Resulting in Death. [108]
Individuals have been executed for “drugs and murder.”

Drug Trafficking Not Resulting in Death. [109]
Individuals have been executed for unspecified drugs offenses.

Other Offenses Not Resulting in Death.
– Assault and Attempted Rape. [110] Individuals have been executed for physical assault and attempted rape; it is unclear how the court justified this decision.
– Gang Leadership. [111] A man was executed for leading a gang that committed robberies and dealt drugs.

Comments.
Capital Punishment U.K. reports that in 2010, Saudi Arabia executed 26 men for murder, rape or drug-related offenses—a drop in the number of executions and scope of the death penalty compared to the several preceding years. [112]

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About chainsoff.

Intelligence Media Service, Monitors and Analyzes Extremists’ activities, including and not limited to: The Muslim Brotherhood, Kurdish Terrorism, Syrian Politics, Jabhet Al-Nusra, Hezbollah, Cyber Crime, and Taliban activities in Syria. Well known for her deep knowledge on Terrorism. Open Source Exploitation expert in the discovery, collection, and assessment of foreign-based publicly available information, also known as Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), HIMNT
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1 Response to SAUDI ARABIA

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