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(Beirut) – Kuwait carried out seven executions by hanging on January 25, 2017, the first time the Gulf state carried out the death penalty in four years, Human Rights Watch said today. Kuwait’s decision reflects a growing trend in the region to increase the use of, or lift moratoriums on, the death penalty.

Kuwait carried out seven executions by hanging on January 25, 2017, the first time the Gulf state carried out the death penalty in four years.   © 2008 Jan Stromme/Getty Images

Kuwait executed two nationals, including a member of the royal family, an Ethiopian woman, a Filipina woman, two Egyptian men, and a Bangladeshi man in Kuwait’s central prison, according to KUNA, Kuwait’s state news agency. The executions were the first in Kuwait since 2013, when Kuwait executed five people. The 2013 executions ended a de facto death penalty moratorium that had been in place since 2007.

“Executing seven people in one day shows Kuwait is moving in exactly the wrong direction on the death penalty,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The Kuwait government should be reinstating the moratorium on the death penalty instead of hanging seven people.”

Kuwaiti courts convicted all seven of those executed of violent offenses between 2007 and 2011, including six for murder and one for kidnapping and rape. The Filipina and Ethiopian women, migrant domestic workers, were convicted of murdering members of their employers’ families, according to Al Jazeera, and the member of the royal family who was executed, Sheikh Al-Sabah, was found guilty of killing his nephew, also a royal, in 2010.

Courts sentenced the Kuwaiti woman to death for having set fire to a wedding tent in 2009, killing almost 60 people. The two Egyptian men were also convicted of murder, and the Bangladeshi man of kidnapping and rape, according to KUNA.

Human Rights Watch has documented due process violations in Kuwait’s criminal justice system that have made it difficult for defendants to get a fair trial, including in capital cases. Kuwait maintains the death penalty for non-violent offenses, including drug smuggling.

In the regional trend to increasing use of the death penalty, in January, 2017, Bahrain ended a six-year de facto moratorium on the death penalty, executing three people. In December 2014, Jordan ended its eight-year moratorium on the death penalty, executing 11 people. Saudi Arabia and Iran consistently have some of the world’s highest execution rates. Saudi Arabia has executed more than 400 people since the beginning of 2014, and human rights groups in Iran report the country may have executed as many as 437 in 2016 alone.

Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all countries and under all circumstances. Capital punishment is unique in its cruelty and finality, and it is inevitably and universally plagued with arbitrariness, prejudice, and error. A majority of countries in the world have abolished the practice. In 2012, following similar resolutions in 2007, 2008, and 2010, the United Nations General Assembly called on countries to establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, progressively restrict the practice, and reduce the offenses for which it might be imposed, all with the view toward its eventual abolition. Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also called on countries to abolish the death penalty.

“Kuwait’s killing of seven people on January 25 highlights the alarming trend in the region for countries to return to or increasingly use the death penalty,” Whitson said. “The death penalty is inherently cruel and should never be used, regardless of the crime.”

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