Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights Watch’

Lack of Swordsmen

March 13, 2013
English: Saudi Arabia

They are progressing in Saudi Arabia. Soon they’ll join the eleventh century. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes it is hard to find good people to do a difficult and demanding job. For example, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia may have to resort to firing squads to execute murderers and sorcerers since there is starting to be a shortage of swordsmen to behead criminals.

Is this what progress looks like in Saudi Arabia? The kingdom is considering ending execution by beheading in favor of firing squads, reports the Egyptian English-language news website Ahram Online. A committee consisting of representatives from the Ministries of Interior, Justice and Health says there are shortages in government swordsmen and argue that a change to execution by firing squad would not violate Islamic law, the Saudi daily newspaper al-Youm writes. According to an official statement from the committee, “This solution seems practical, especially in light of shortages in official swordsmen or their belated arrival to execution yards in some incidents.”

I have to wonder, how hard can the job be? It’s not like brain surgery where precision is needed, just a stroke at the neck. It can’t be a highly skilled job or one that demands much education. I imagine that it would be desirable to behead the victim with one stroke and that might take practice. You don’t want the person executed to be just lying there screaming as the executioner whacks away over and over.

I wonder if the Saudi government provides the sword, or would you have to use your own? Do they have regular inspections to make sure the swordsmen keep their sword properly sharpened? What about laundry bills from blood spatters? Maybe they get a special uniform. It might be interesting to be able to tell people at a gathering that you are a beheader, or is this the sort of job that makes people not want to have anything to do with you?

Kidding aside, I suppose this is progress, of a sort. Personally, I am less concerned about the death penalty than Saudi standards of jurisprudence.

Execution by beheading in Saudi Arabia has continually been condemned by human-rights groups. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), at least 69 people were executed by beheading in 2012, while Amnesty International says 79 were killed under the death penalty in the same period. In 2012 HRW wrote, “Saudi Arabia has no penal code, so prosecutors and judges largely define criminal offenses at their discretion.” Rape, murder, armed robbery, drug trafficking and even suspected “sorcery” are punishable by death under Saudi Arabia’s Islamic law.

The Saudi death penalty recently made headlines following the execution of Rizana Nafeek, a young Sri Lankan woman who was beheaded for the murder of her employers’ 4-month-old son. Nafeek arrived in Saudi Arabia in 2005 at age 17 but spent the next seven years in Saudi jails after the baby died under her care, writes CNN. The family of the boy believed he had been strangled by Nafeek, while she claimed he had choked on his milk. The young Sri Lankan immigrant had no access to a lawyer during her pretrial interrogation during which she said she was forced to sign a confession, notes CNN. The execution of this young woman revealed how “woefully out of step they [the Saudi justice system] are with their international obligations regarding the use of the death penalty,” said Philip Luther from Amnesty International. It highlighted how Saudi law tends to treat children as adults in criminal cases even though international law prohibits the death penalty for crimes committed before the age of 18, writes HRW.

I don’t mind the idea of chopping people’s heads off so much, but I would like proof beyond a reasonable doubt that they actually are guilty of a crime.

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Libyan Missiles Looted

September 8, 2011

Oh, joy. Tell me again that our kinetic military action to overthrow Gadhaffi was a good idea. Here is an item from CNN that suggests otherwise.

TRIPOLI, Libya (CNN) – A potent stash of Russian-made surface-to-air missiles is missing from a huge Tripoli weapons warehouse amid reports of weapons looting across war-torn Libya.

They are Grinch SA-24 shoulder-launched missiles, also known as Igla-S missiles, the equivalent of U.S.-made Stinger missiles.

A CNN team and Human Rights Watch found dozens of empty crates marked with packing lists and inventory numbers that identified the items as Igla-S surface-to-air missiles.

The list for one box, for example, written in English and Russian, said it had contained two missiles, with inventory number “Missile 9M342,” and a power source, inventory number “Article 9B238.”

Grinch SA-24s are designed to target front-line aircraft, helicopters, cruise missiles and drones. They can shoot down a plane flying as high as 11,000 feet and can travel 19,000 feet straight out.

Fighters aligned with the National Transitional Council and others swiped armaments from the storage facility, witnesses told Human Rights Watch. The warehouse is located near a base of the Khamis Brigade, a special forces unit in Gadhafi’s military, in the southeastern part of the capital.

The warehouse contains mortars and artillery rounds, but there are empty crates for those items as well. There are also empty boxes for another surface-to-air missile, the SA-7.

Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch emergencies director, told CNN he has seen the same pattern in armories looted elsewhere in Libya, noting that “in every city we arrive, the first thing to disappear are the surface-to-air missiles.”

He said such missiles can fetch many thousands of dollars on the black market.

“We are talking about some 20,000 surface-to-air missiles in all of Libya, and I’ve seen cars packed with them.” he said. “They could turn all of North Africa into a no-fly zone.”

I guess we know what Libya’s major export over the next few years is going to be, besides oil. I agreed that Gadhaffi was a loathsome dictator who mistreated his people and supported terrorism. Worst of all, no one knew how to spell his name. But, at least he was tamed for the last few years. I simply do not believe that the National Transitional Council is going to be much of an improvement and now we are going to have surface to air missiles floating all around the region.


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