Saudis Execute 81

More brutality from an ostensible US ally.

Reuters (“Saudi Arabia executes 81 men in one day for terrorism, other offences“):

Saudi Arabia executed 81 men including seven Yemenis and one Syrian on Saturday, the interior ministry said, in the kingdom’s biggest mass execution in decades.

The number dwarfed the 67 executions reported there in all of 2021 and the 27 in 2020.

Offences ranged from joining militant groups to holding “deviant beliefs”, the ministry said in a statement.

“These individuals, totalling 81, were convicted of various crimes including murdering innocent men, women and children,” the statement read.

“Crimes committed by these individuals also include pledging allegiance to foreign terrorist organisations, such as ISIS (Islamic State), al-Qaeda and the Houthis,” it added.

The ministry did not say how the executions were carried out.

The men included 37 Saudi nationals who were found guilty in a single case for attempting to assassinate security officers and targeting police stations and convoys, the statement added.

The mass execution is likely to bring back attention to Saudi Arabia’s human rights record at a time when world powers have been focused on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Rights groups have accused Saudi Arabia of enforcing restrictive laws on political and religious expression, and criticised it for using the death penalty, including for defendants arrested when they were minors

NYT (“Saudi Arabia Puts 81 to Death, Despite Promises to Curb Executions“) adds:

Saudi Arabia said on Saturday that it had put 81 people to death in what was the kingdom’s largest mass execution in years, despite recent promises to curb its use of the death penalty.


Rights groups condemned the executions, saying they flew in the face of claims by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, that the country was overhauling its justice system and limiting its use of the death penalty.

“These executions are the opposite of justice,” said Ali Adubusi, the director of the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights, a watchdog group. He said that in many of the cases, the charges against the accused involved “not a drop of blood.”


Mr. Adubusi’s rights group said that of the cases it had been able to monitor and document among the 81 people executed, it had found no charges that merited the death penalty under the criteria that Saudi Arabia has made public. Some of the charges were related to participation in human rights demonstrations, the group said.

It said it had not been able to document many of the cases because of the Saudi justice system’s lack of transparency, and because family members of some of the accused had been threatened and intimidated.

Rights groups said that many of the executed were from Saudi Arabia’s Shiite Muslim minority, which has long been at odds with the government over discrimination against Shiites.


The ministry said the defendants had been able to exercise “their full rights under Saudi law” before Saudi courts, including the right to a lawyer. But the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights said it had documented cases in which defendants had been denied access to a lawyer, tortured and held incommunicado.

“The world should know by now that when Mohammed bin Salman promises reform, bloodshed is bound to follow,” Soraya Bauwens, the deputy director of Reprieve, an advocacy group that tracks executions in Saudi Arabia, said in a statement on Saturday.

It’s impossible from this remove to know how many, if any, of the 81 were actually terrorists or violent criminals of any sort. That this is an incredibly thuggish regime wildly out of step with international norms of decency is, alas, not new news.

FILED UNDER: Middle East, Terrorism, World Politics, , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Stormy Dragon says:

    Yeah, if Saudi Arabia wants to murder people, they need to slowly poison them through a bullshit medical procedure pantomime like a civilized nation!

  2. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Whether capital punishment should continue to exist is debatable. But the United States isn’t simply declaring citizens enemies of the state and executing them.

  3. Stormy Dragon says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m not sure The Innocence Project would agree with you there.

  4. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Seriously, equating the practices in Saudi Arabia and the United States here is just moronic.

  5. Jon says:

    @James Joyner:

    equating the practices in Saudi Arabia and the United States here is just moronic

    It is not moronic; it may be hyperbolic, but it is not moronic.

  6. Stormy Dragon says:

    @James Joyner:

    Seriously, equating the practices in Saudi Arabia and the United States here is just moronic.

    Good thing I never said they were equal then. There are, however, similarities, and the differences are ones of degree rather than kind.

  7. Mister Bluster says:

    @James Joyner:..the United States isn’t simply declaring citizens enemies of the state and executing them.

    I suspect that the families and friends of Allison Beth Krause, 19, Jeffrey Glenn Miller, 20, Sandra Lee Scheuer, 20, and William Knox Schroeder, 19 would disagree with you.

  8. Scott says:

    More brutality from an ostensible US ally.

    I said this last week WRT oil production: Saudi Arabia is not our ally and it is time to give them the Heisman.

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Offences ranged from joining militant groups to holding “deviant beliefs”

    Yeah, they’d hang me.

  10. Modulo Myself says:

    The guys who murdered Khashoggi were fucking trained in Arkansas by Tier 1, an American private security company (which of course is owned by a PE firm). A Tier 1 exec worked in the Pentagon in the Trump admin. America has supported Saudi Arabia on every step of its journey. The country is a fantasy camp for all of our right-wing pro-torture authoritarians.

  11. Dave Schuler says:

    As I’ve said before I don’t think we can be friends with the Saudis because our values are just too different. I don’t think we should be allies. They should be vendors. Period.

  12. EddieInCA says:


    It is not moronic; it may be hyperbolic, but it is not moronic.

    No. It’s moronic.

  13. EddieInCA says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    I suspect that the families and friends of Allison Beth Krause, 19, Jeffrey Glenn Miller, 20, Sandra Lee Scheuer, 20, and William Knox Schroeder, 19 would disagree with you.

    Yes. Because four random young students shot by scared, equally young, ROTC Cadets, during a chaotic, violent confrontation, is EXACTLY the same as a government intentionally executing 81 carefully chosen people.


  14. Slugger says:

    I am amused that part of the rationale for these killings was that the victims were loyal to al-Qaeda. And who is the state sponsor of al-Qaeda? Of course, small deviations from the official line has always been the quickest way to execution in every tyranny.

  15. Jon says:


    No. It’s moronic.

    Respectfully, no it isn’t. You disagreeing with something does not make it moronic. It just means you disagree. We have a long history of state-sanctioned extra-judicial killings in this country. So, I’ll re-iterate that it is hyperbolic but but not moronic.

    intentionally executing 81 carefully chosen people

    The word ‘carefully’ is doing an awful lot of work there.

  16. Jay L Gischer says:

    @EddieInCA: I don’t think it’s a good comparison either.

    And, the students that were shot were not necessarily in protest at the time. One was going to class. The shots were of the “fire into the crowd” sort. The shooters were National Guardsmen, but “scared kids” is probably a fair description of them even so. I found what seems to be a pretty good source on the Kent State website.

    This is kind of a big deal to me because of my age. The only time I ever skipped class as an undergrad was on May 4, 1975, the fifth anniversary. Both faculty and students at UW supported a moratorium on classes in remembrance.

  17. Fog says:

    @Dave Schuler: I agree with the sentiment, but even using them as venders leaves us shipping a ton of money outside the country to fund murderers and terrorists. If we are an energy-exporting country we should be energy independent. And if we have to make some compromises in the field of energy production the short run to do it, we need to balance that against continuing to send a big chunk of our national wealth to c********rs who hate our guts, be they Russian or Saudi.

  18. MarkedMan says:

    @EddieInCA: While I wouldn’t go so far as Jon, I have to agree with him that our differences with the Saudis are not as profound as they should be, to our shame. Of course, there are a few very important differences. We don’t execute people purely for political reasons. We don’t execute people for their sexual orientation or for their religious beliefs. Huge and important differences.

    But we do execute people. We execute people for crimes they committed when they were children. We execute innocent people, and our courts and prosecutors block access to the evidence and testing that would prove their guilt or innocence. We execute people who are so mentally diminished they don’t even understand what the sentence means. And administration of the penalty is so susceptible to political interference that when one governor, Rick Perry, got a particular hard on for putting people to death, Texas started putting people down at a tremendous rate. During his terms Texas put to death 279 people, more than half of what the other 49 states and the federal government did during his tenure.

    So, sad as it is, it is legitimate to argue that the US is closer to Saudi Arabia in this matter than we should be. If we continue to improve as a nation, some day our grandchildren will be watching horror movies about the barbarity that is the US legal system in much the same way that our ancestors inhumane treatment of people in insane asylums have become a trope. And it’s by no means limited to the death penalty. Our entire prison industrial complex is a shame on us as a nation.

  19. Mister Bluster says:

    @EddieInCA:..EXACTLY the same

    No. Not exactly the same. However the victims at Kent state are dead by the actions of agents of the United States government no matter how young or ill trained or scared they were.

  20. dazedandconfused says:

    @Dave Schuler:
    Unfortunately the status of the dollar as the global currency, which is a tremendous advantage and the source of our power to unilaterally sanction enemies, hinges on the Saudi/US petro-dollar arrangement. Oil is not just a commodity, it’s our precious.

  21. Dave Schuler says:


    No argument here.

  22. Now we need to cut off the monarchy and end it, as we did apartheid. Elevation of masculinized ego (elitist, royalist etc.) becomes ugly, hateful, and manipulative — it’s a mathematical relationship, a direct correspondence. The Noor family is being fouled by Sauds and their little minions. Listen to, seek the opinions of, larger groupings of women in the country. Women must be allowed property and all legal rights – they’re the sweetest, best guide to keeping their future safe from Saud male swindlers. Sabah Arabia would be a better name for nation because it invokes the mystic, ancient Sabah tribe of the region, in a respectful, non-elitist way.