U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to Saudi Arabia coincides with a recent surge of executions in that country.
So far this year, at least 39 people have reportedly been put to death by authorities.
Amnesty International's researcher on Saudi Arabia, Sevag Kechichian, told The Independent, "Since the beginning of the year we’ve seen an unprecedented rate of executions in the country."
"Despite claims sometimes made by the authorities about carrying out executions to deter terrorism and other violence in the kingdom, almost half of this year's executions have actually been for non-violent drugs-related offenses," said Kechician. "There’s no real rhyme or reason for this upsurge in executions, and in a way this makes it all the more alarming."
The Saudi regime has been criticized for state executions—often by beheading and stoning—for sorcery, drug smuggling, adultery, apostasy, and same-sex intercourse. According to the Death Penalty database, maintained by Cornell University Law School, the country has a high rate of executions, with at least 87 people put to death in 2014.
Despite the widespread criticism from human rights groups and others, U.S. officials have remained largely silent about the executions and other human rights abuses inflicted by the Saudi government—one of the U.S.'s most long-standing allies in the Middle East.