ISIS Beheadings and Saudi Executions Are ‘Different,’ Official Says

February 2, 2015 Updated: February 2, 2015

A high-ranking Saudi official said there’s a difference between the beheadings carried out by Islamic State, or ISIS, militants and Saudi Arabia’s executions.

Human rights groups have criticized Saudi Arabia over its use of the death penalty, floggings, and other forms of punishment over the years. Amnesty International points out that only the Chinese regime—which doesn’t release statistics on its executions—Iran, and Iraq surpassed Saudi Arabia. The oil-rich kingdom killed 79 people in 2013.

Over the weekend, ISIS said it beheaded Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, posting a video online of the purported execution. The terrorist group has also beheaded several Westerners in an attempt to intimidate Western governments.

Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki said Saudi Arabia’s use of capital punishment—which includes beheadings—is different from what ISIS is doing. The punishments were meted out via “a decision made by a court,” whereas ISIS arbitrarily killed prisoners, he told NBC News. “ISIS has no legitimate way to decide to kill people,” he said, adding that “the difference is clear.”

But that doesn’t necessarily mean the verdicts that lead to official executions are legitimate, say rights groups and experts.

“What al-Turki is arguing sadly ignores the fact that there should not be the death penalty on individuals, something that is quite clear in international human rights law, which has commonalities with various religious traditions (including Islam, where many scholars concur),” Dr. Fait Muedini with the Department of International Studies at Butler University told Epoch Times.

The Saudi official’s “attempts to justify it because of the judicial process does not make the action any more right. Beheadings and the death penalty are serious problems, and something that the Saudi Government is trying to ignore,” he added.

On Monday, an alleged rapist was beheaded in Jeddah, but there was controversy over the evidence against him.

In its 2013 report, Amnesty elaborated further. “Mabruk bin Ali al-Sai’ari was sentenced to death at separate trials in 2007 and 2012 for armed murder and robbery, based only on a testimony from one witness, plus statements from the murder victim’s relatives,” the group said. “Four of the victim’s relatives each made 13 statements—so 52 oaths were brought against Mabruk. None of the relatives had seen the alleged crime. He remains on death row in Saudi Arabia.”

Al-Turki also referenced how new King Salman, who ascended the Saudi throne following the death of his brother King Abdullah, would rule. “We are very much determined actually to secure our country, secure our people, and defeat terrorism inside Saudi Arabia and help the international effort to defeat it everywhere else,” he told NBC.