Saudi Arabia is using the death penalty as a means to silence Shia dissent, says Amnesty International.
"These brutal executions are the latest act in the Saudi Arabian authorities' ongoing persecution of the Shia minority. The death penalty is being deployed as a political weapon to punish them for daring to protest against their treatment and to cow others into silence," said the group's director for research, Lynn Maalouf, on Wednesday.
Maalouf made the remarks after Saudi Arabia executed four Shias in the kingdom's oil-rich Eastern Province over allegations of conducting terrorist activities.
"The international community must come down hard on Saudi Arabia to ensure that others currently facing execution after deeply flawed legal proceedings do not meet the same fate. Saudi Arabia should quash their death sentences and establish an official moratorium on executions," she added.
Amnesty has documented a further 34 other cases of Shia men currently sentenced to death mostly following unfair trials based largely on confessions obtained by torture.
The Shia-dominated Eastern Province, particularly the Qatif region, has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters, complaining of marginalization in the Sunni-ruled kingdom, have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the oil-rich region.
The Shia community of the province accounts for somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of Saudi Arabia's 33-million-strong population.
"The Saudi Arabian government is showing no signs of letting up in its use of the death penalty and has employed it vigorously since the traditional pause for Ramadan...The death penalty continues to be used in violation of international human rights law and standards on a massive scale, and often after trials which are grossly unfair and sometimes politically motivated," concluded Maalouf.