Saudi Arabia is on the brink of executing a record number of people in a year in modern times

Saudi Arabia is expected to soon surpass its record number of executions in a year.

Human Rights Watch researcher Adam Coogle, who monitors the Saudi Arabian state news releases on executions, told that 87 people have been executed by the repressive Gulf state so far this year, whereas 88 people were executed in total in 2014.

Amnesty International’s figures differed slightly - spokesperson Neil Durkin said that they believe 88 people have been executed so far this year, and at least 90 were executed in 2014.

Saudi Arabia already ranked among the world's most prolific executioners in 2014, according to Amnesty, with an average of 90 executions carried out a year. With at least 87 recorded deaths in five months, this year is set to be the bloodiest for Saudi Arabia’s justice system in modern times. Rights groups repeatedly point to evidence that people sentenced to death do not have access to fair trials.

Several foreign nationals are also known to have been killed so far this year and the two most recent deaths reported by international media were for drug smuggling charges rather than lethal crimes.

“Any execution is appalling, but executions for crimes such as drug smuggling that result in no loss of life are particularly egregious – there have been 39 such drug-related executions so far in 2015,” said Adam Coogle of HRW.

“There is simply no excuse for Saudi Arabia’s continued use of the death penalty, especially for these types of crimes.”

The method of execution in Saudi Arabia is typically public beheading.

This month Saudi authorities advertised for eight new executioners to cope with the soaring number of death sentences.

Saudi officials have not commented on why there has been a spike in the number of executions, but it is thought to be linked to more judges being appointed since King Salman came to the throne in January, allowing a backlog of appeal cases to be heard.

“We’re appalled at this unprecedented spike in execution numbers," said Amnesty International's Neil Durkin. He added:

Even before this Saudi Arabia had one of the highest execution rates in the world, including for non-lethal drugs offences and totally imaginary offences like ‘apostasy’ and ‘sorcery’.

We’re urging King Salman to impose a moratorium on all further executions with immediate effect.

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