Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman says there is progress in work to normalise relations with Israel. Money SHARMA/AFP

In 2023, Saudi Arabia organised more than 172 executions, up by 15 per cent compared to 2022, and joined Afghanistan and Iran as the leading executioners in the world, according to data from the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights (ESOHR).

One notable development in 2023, is the distinct increase in the number of women executed. Six women were put to death last year, including three Saudi women, one Yemeni, one Ghanaian and one Bangladeshi national.

The remaining 166 males were executed for crimes relating to drug smuggling, weapon possession, activism, illegal exit from the country and murder, the human rights organisation added.

While Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman promised to cut down on capital punishments, since becoming leader in 2015, official data shows that Saudi Arabia has executed almost 1,300 people – at a rate of around 140 people each year.

Data published by the Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Interior revealed that 147 death sentences were recorded in 2022, excluding the mass execution of 81 individuals in March.

In the past seven years, the rate of executions in Saudi Arabia has increased by nearly 200 per cent. The huge rise in capital punishments has been dubbed an "execution crisis" which marks the "bloodiest years" that the Middle Eastern nation has seen under its current leaders.

Taha al-Hajji, the Legal Director of the ESOHR, said: "The Crown Prince has blamed 'bad laws' and rogue judges for Saudi Arabia's continued execution crisis, but nothing gets done in the Kingdom without his approval."

"His endless empty promises of reform are contradicted by the facts: it has been yet another year of bloodshed in Saudi Arabia. Protesters and child defendants remain at imminent risk of execution with a stroke of the ruler's pen."

Despite the death penalty rate almost doubling in Saudi Arabia, last year, at least 834 people were executed in Iran, said the Paris-based Together Against the Death Penalty (ECPM) in its annual execution rate report.

The number of executions organised by Iran highlighted a rapid increase of 43 per cent compared to 2022 and marked the second time that the country had witnessed more than 800 death sentences per year.

"The situation in the country is extremely worrying", the ECPM report added.

International Business Times UK has reached out to ECPM for a comment.

The rate of executions in Saudi Arabia however, has surpassed the number of death penalties given by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Since the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan in 2021, the country has also seen an increased number of executions. In recent months, as part of its extreme Sharia law, the Taliban has reintroduced its "eye for an eye" regime.

The unofficial governors see the "eye for an eye" mantra, which sees the families of victims killing the perpetrators, as a form of justice. Corporal "hudood" punishments have also been implemented by the Taliban, using amputations as a punishment for lesser crimes and offences that are considered a violation of God's teachings.

A report from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said that the Taliban had carried out five public executions in the first six months of 2023.

Last month, the terror group organised three public executions in just five days.