There’s been widespread international condemnation of the beheading of 47 dissidents in Sauda Arabia.
The mass executions were concerning enough, but are only a part of a comparatively large number of executions in Saudi Arabia.
The Guardian reports: Saudi Arabia: beheadings reach highest level in two decades
Saudi Arabia carried out at least 157 executions in 2015, with beheadings reaching their highest level in the kingdom in two decades, according to several advocacy groups that monitor the death penalty worldwide.
Amnesty International said in November that at least 63 people had been executed since the start of the year for drug-related offences. That figure made up at least 40% of the total number of executions in 2015, compared to less than 4% for drug-related executions in 2010.
Amnesty said Saudi Arabia had exceeded its highest level of executions since 1995, when 192 executions were recorded.
While some crimes, such as premeditated murder, carry fixed punishments under Saudi Arabia’s interpretation of the Islamic law, or Shariah, drug-related offences are considered “ta’zir”, meaning neither the crime nor the punishment is defined in Islam.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) found that of the first 100 prisoners executed in 2015, 56 had been based on judicial discretion and not for crimes for which Islamic law mandates a specific death penalty punishment.
Any executions, and especially mass executions, may seem abhorrent to most of us in New Zealand but we used to have capital punishment, with 83 verified executions and the last execution here in 1957. Executions were abolished finally in 1961.
All New Zealand executions were by hanging, initially in public. Is death by hanging any more or less humane than beheading?
The general response to the Saudi beheadings from the New Zealand Government has been in opposition to the executions but to take it no further.
Newstalk ZB: NZ criticises Saudis, but not at expense of trade talks
Duty minister Chris Finlayson said New Zealand is a long-standing opponent of the death penalty, and executions are always wrong in all cases and any circumstances.
Finlayson insists the government regularly raises human rights issues during diplomatic talks.
The Greens had a much stronger response: New Zealand shouldn’t prefer human rights abusers
The New Zealand Government must halt its free trade discussions with Saudi Arabia after the latest in a long line of very public human rights atrocities.
Green Party Co-leader James Shaw said that New Zealand was sending a distressing signal by continuing to negotiate for a free trade agreement giving preferential treatment to Saudi Arabia while they continued to execute people, often with the flimsiest of evidence.
I’m not sure how well Shaw or the Greens check the legal processes and evidence in Saudi cases that result in executions. The main export from Saudi Arabia is oil so Greens probably don’t favour trade with them anyway.
The most interesting response was from Labour…
Labour foreign affairs spokesperson David Shearer did not agree with the Greens on the issue.
“Trading links enables us ot get a foot in the door to talk about human rights issues that we would not otherwise be able to do if we didn’t have those links. I don’t believe it’s necessarily in our interests to take this stance in banning trading talks with either country.”
…and the response to that from The Standard. Greg Presland in Saudi Arabia and the free trade deal:
Davis Shearer’s response has shall we say been disappointing.
Promoting free trade so that our ability to discuss human rights violations with trading partners is frankly silly. And there should be a moral dimension to trade relationships. If a foreign nation is involved in widespread human rights violations then all forms of pressure, including the suspension of trade agreement negotiations, should be available to try and effect change.
All forms of pressure are available to New Zealand, no matter how futile or practical. If we suspended trade negotiations with every country the was deemed by us to have violated human rights we might not have a lot of trade.
Comments were more damning of Shearer’s and Labour’s stance.
It’s absurd for Shearer to think that we can influence Saudi Arabia through free trade deals.
I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard David Shearer on the radio this morning. Really and truly – what a wet response! Has NZ Labour lost all its principles?
This is not a matter of whether or not there is a trade deal to be signed (and if it is it will be a very bad one). This is a matter of taking a stand on human rights.
Both NZ First, and the Greens get it. Why oh why can’t Labour?
Labour is too scared to take back its principles in case it loses a part of the political spectrum that they do not realize is not actually theirs.
Crucifixion no barrier to trade in NZ!
Human rights breaches and democracy breaches and funding ISIS from Saudi, no barrier to trade either!
(or any other neoliberal country, if the US says friend then turn a blind eye, if US says foe, invade or sanction). What happened to an independent foreign policy??
So that idiot Shearer thinks we can influence Saudi Arabia’s human rights through trade deals. So how has that been working out so far? If anything Saudi Arabia’s human rights record has been getting worse.
Gordon Campbell has a good post on this.
David Shearer proves once again the labour party is the party of liberalism. So how is raising human rights issues going there David, any luck? Or just more b.s word games from you and your flock of professional politician’s.
This is precisely why Labour is bleeding to death – no principles, no standing for what is right. For once I have to say I agree with a John Key statement: “Get some balls!” Shearer had the opportunity to show that Labour does actually offer something different from National, but I guess he just wants to be part of the big boys’ club.
And it goes on.
Perhaps Shearer knows more about the realities of international relations and trade than vocal left wingers at The Standard.
Should human rights figure more in our trade agreements with other countries? More on this in Greens, capital punishment and trade.