The ultraconservative Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia executed 12 people in 10 days for drug offences, according to a human rights organisation.

Reprieve, a non-profit organization, claimed that most of these men were beheaded with a sword. They were sentenced to death after being imprisoned on non-violent drug charges.

Three of them were from Pakistan, four from Syria, two from Jordan and three from Saudi. Another man from Jordan is believed to have been transferred to the wing for executions last week.

Execution as a form of punishment continues in the kingdom despite promises by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to reform their justice system. Several human rights organisations have condemned Saudi Arabia's "execution spree," but to no avail.

"Mohammed bin Salman has repeatedly touted his vision of progress, committing to reducing executions and ending the death penalty for drug offences. But as a bloody year of executions draws to a close, the Saudi authorities have begun executing drug offenders again, in large numbers and in secret," said Maya Foa, director of Reprieve.

With the latest execution, the total number of people sentenced to death this year has reached at least 132.

Saudi executed 81 men in March this year for crimes including murder, links to foreign terrorist groups and for "monitoring and targeting officials and expatriates." It was the single largest mass execution in years.

The majority of these men belonged to the Shiite sect of Islam, a minority in Saudi Arabia that is viewed with suspicion by many Sunnis. There was a major drop in executions in 2020, but over the last two years the number has only been increasing.

"If Saudi Arabia continues to execute people at the same pace during the second half of 2022, they will reach an unprecedented number of executions, exceeding the record high of 186 executions in 2019," a report by the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR) warned in August this year.

Saudi arabia beheading
In Saudi Arabia, corporal punishments as well as capital executions - by beheading – are carried out in public or in prison depending on the court ruling (Courtesy of Amnesty International)