The UN human rights chief has condemned the beheading of 81 people by Saudi Arabia during the course of a single day, charged with terrorism-related offenses.

Iran PressEurope: High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged the authorities in a statement released following Saturday’s mass execution, to “bring the country’s counterterrorism laws fully into line with international standards”.

The beheadings exceeded the total of 67 executions that reportedly took place in the country during the whole of last year.


Trials do not meet fair trial

Among those put to death on 12 March, Bachelet said she understood that 41 were Shia Muslims who had taken part in anti-government protests in 2011-12, calling for greater political participation.

Another seven were Yemenis and one was a Syrian national.

“Our monitoring indicates that some of those executed were sentenced to death following trials that did not meet fair trial and due process guarantees, and for crimes that did not appear to meet the most serious crimes threshold, as required under international law,” she said.

The High Commissioner also expressed concern that some of the executions appeared to be linked to the ongoing armed conflict in Yemen.


The sentences may amount to war crimes

Implementing death sentences following trials that do not provide the required “fair trial guarantees” is prohibited by international human rights and humanitarian law and “may amount to a war crime,” the UN rights chief reminded.

She said that failure to provide relatives with information on the circumstances of their loved ones’ executions “may amount to torture and ill-treatment”.

“Authorities should return the bodies of those executed to their families”, underscored the top UN human rights official.


"Terrorism" has an extremely broad definition in Saudi legislation

Bachelet voiced her concern over the extremely broad definition of terrorism in Saudi legislation, including non-violent acts that supposedly “endanger national unity” or “undermine the State’s reputation.”

“This risks criminalizing people exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” she warned.

“I call on the Saudi authorities to halt all executions, immediately establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, and commute the death sentences against those on death row,” concluded the High Commissioner.