As Saudi Arabia continues to wage war in Yemen and Western governments back the offensives with sales of arms to the Gulf state, a new report by the human rights group Reprieve released Monday revealed that Saudi Arabia has executed a staggering 153 people this year, nearing close to its 2015 total.
The human rights group also reported that the kingdom is using secret courts to carry out these judicial sentences and using other punitive practices, such as having no lawyers present at hearings. The state is also reportedly using torture to force people into confessions.
“These appalling abuses give the lie to the prime minister’s claim that the U.K.’s engagement with Saudi Arabia promotes ‘reform,'” Reprieve Director Maya Foa said in a statement accompanying the report. “The government must urgently use its ever-closer relationship with Saudi Arabia to secure genuine change — this includes the release of juveniles facing the death penalty.”
Reprieve’s figures show that at least 153 people were executed this year, inching close to the 158 people who were killed by the death penalty last year, both up from 2014’s figure of 87.
Most of those killed were “state security” cases — including political dissidents and those tortured until they confessed — as well as drug offenders, many who could have been victims of human trafficking.
In January, Saudi Arabia executed 47 people alone in a single day, prompting protests across the Middle East that saw buildings attacked and burned from Baghdad to Tehran.
Juveniles are also among those who stand to be executed. Dawood Marhoon was arrested at age 17 in 2002, while Ali Nimr will turn 22 next week. Both stand on death row for offenses related to protesting.
Despite all this, Saudi Arabia holds a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council. In March, the kingdom’s culture minister delivered a speech to the U.N. in Geneva claiming the country was a bastion of human rights that “fights torture in all its physical and moral manifestations.”
This post originally ran on teleSUR.