Saudi Arabia have been accused of beheading 12 people as attention shifts to the World Cup.
The country is said to have executed a dozen men in 10 days despite the crown prince’s promise to limit capital punishment.
According to human rights organization Reprieve, the defendants were sentenced to death after being imprisoned for non-violent drug-related offences.
The organisation’s director, Maya Foa, has warned that the death toll could soon reach 13.
They highlighted the case of taxi driver Hussein Abo al-Kheir, who faces execution in a Saudi prison.
Foa said: “As Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) took center stage during the opening ceremony of the World Cup, seated next to Fifa supremo Gianni Infantino, taxi driver Hussein Abo al-Kheir cowered in a cell, terrified that the executioner would take him next.
“While all eyes are on football, Saudi Arabia is carrying out a gruesome series of executions, killing people like Hussein, an innocent man who was tortured by Saudi police into ‘confessing’.
“Saudi Arabia has executed more people than ever before in the first six months of this year, and has now begun executing drug offenders in large numbers and in secret as the world focuses on his neighbour.”
According to the non-profit organization, which collected data on this week’s executions, most of the defendants were beheaded with swords.
Three of the men executed were Pakistani, four Syrians, two Jordanians and three Saudis, Reprieve said.
Another man from Jordan was transferred to a wing of the prison and is due to be executed on Friday, the NGO added.
The latest figures bring the total number of people executed in Saudi Arabia this year to at least 132, more than the number of Saudi executions in 2020 and 2021 combined.
In August, Saudi Arabia’s European Human Rights Organization criticized the country’s justice system, saying it had betrayed promises to reduce torture and killings in its penal system.
In its report, the group drew attention to a mass beheading of 81 criminals on March 12 – when more than 70% of the victims were killed for their involvement in non-fatal crimes.
Of the total number killed, 41 men – more than 50% – were massacred for taking part in pro-democracy demonstrations.
To justify the killings, Saudi leaders called the men “terrorists”.
ESOHR reported that at least three of the men provided credible allegations that they had been tortured and forced to confess.