In an attempt to recruit additional staff that would carry out the rising number of death sentences in Saudi Arabia in the form of public beheadings, the Islamic kingdom published an advertisement last month for eight new executioners. According to the advert that was posted on the civil service jobs portal on May 18, no special qualifications would be necessary for the job, whose main agenda is to execute a judgment of death and also perform amputations on those convicted of smaller offenses.
Saudi Arabia is among the top five countries in the world that continue to deliver death sentences. In 2014, it ranked third, succeeding Iran and China and preceding Iraq and the United States, according to Amnesty International’s estimates.
Last month, a man who was beheaded was the 85th person this year whose death sentence was recorded by the official Saudi Press Agency. In comparison, 88 people were executed in the whole of 2014, reported Human Rights Watch. While most were sentenced for murder, 38 had committed drug-related offenses and only half of those executed were Saudi nationals. The others hailed from various other countries including Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, India, Jordan, Burma, Indonesia, Eritrea, Chad, Sudan and the Philippines.
While government officials refuse to explain why the number of executions has gone up so quickly, diplomats speculate that the rise in death sentences stems from the fact that more judges have been appointed in the recent past, thus allowing a backlog of appeals to be heard in rapid succession. Yet, political analysts suggest that the sudden increase in executions may be a sign of the judiciary’s strong response to rising regional turbulence.
A PDF version of the application form for the executioner’s post, which is downloadable from the Saudi government’s official website, classifies the job as a religious functionary and mentions that it would belong to the lower end of the civil service pay scale.