On Monday January 12, a Burmese woman who lived in Saudi Arabia was executed by Saudi authorities after being convicted of murder and sexual abuse. Laila Bint Abdul Muttalib Basim was found guilty of sexually abusing and murdering her seven year old step daughter. The woman would be dragged through the streets of Mecca and held down by police officers as she was led to her execution. Until she died, the woman proclaimed her innocence by saying “I did not kill, I did not kill”.
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The execution would take place in public and would be carried out by sword, which would take three attempts before the woman was beheaded. Video of the execution was taken and posted to YouTube but would be removed due to its graphic nature. Since then, many additional videos have surfaced on the website.
While the execution carried out in the streets of Mecca was permitted by royal decree, the filming of the execution was not and the person responsible for filming the incident was arrested and is soon to face trial. When asked about the beheading, Mohammed al-Maudi from the Saudi government backed Saudi Human Rights Commission said:
“”We emphasize respect for the right to life as one of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the law. It should not make us forget the rights of other parties violated by the perpetrators, which has to be seen with the same degree of respect”
On the other hand, Madawi Al-Rasheed, a visiting professor at the London School Economics and Political Science took another view when looking at the beheadings when she said:
“Public beheadings are a routine way for Riyadh to assert power…but, the kingdom seems uncomfortable when footage of beheadings circulates internationally, especially at a time when its competitor, IS, is doing the same thing.”
At least 15 people have been executed by authorities in Saudi Arabia this year, the kingdom saw 87 executions in 2014. Crimes that are punishable by death in Saudi Arabia are rape, murder, armed robbery, and drug trafficking.
Saudi Arabia which has not relented to international pressure to end capital punishment has also come under increased scrutiny for its punishment of blogger Raif Badawi. Badawi, a self-proclaimed liberal blogger and founder of the blog Saudi Free Liberals Forum, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for his blog which championed free speech. The blogger is supposed to receive 50 lashes every Friday until his lashes are completed. The last two scheduled lashings for Badawi were postponed and the Saudi Authorities said it was because the wounds from his first set of lashes had yet to heal. International pressure has only intensified since the first postponement of his lashes. The United States and the European Union requested that the lashings not commence and the United Kingdom released a public statement saying “the UK condemns the use of cruel and degrading punishment in all circumstances.”
As international pressure increases on the Saudi government for the execution and the flogging, it remains to be seen how the new king will alter, or not, existing policy.