The United Nations human rights office is concerned by the significant increase in Saudi Arabia’s use of capital punishment in the past year and is calling on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to prevent such punishment.

According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, OHCHR, the number of executions in the country almost tripled last year compared with 2010.

“We call on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to respect international standards guaranteeing due process and the protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, to progressively restrict the use of the death penalty and to reduce the number of offences for which it may be imposed,” OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva.

“What is even more worrying is that court proceedings often reportedly fall far short of international fair trial standards, and the use of torture as a means to obtain confessions appears to be rampant,” Colville added.

While a wide range of offences in Saudi Arabia are set towards the death penalty, including the charge of sorcery and witchcraft, for which a woman was executed last month, the UN said that they were concerned about the punishment for those who have been convicted.

Six men convicted on charges of highway robbery were condemned to “cross amputation” – a form of punishment which involves the amputation of the men’s right hands and left feet.

“We call on the authorities to halt the use of such cruel, inhuman, degrading punishment,” Colville said, noting that as a party to the Convention against Torture, Saudi Arabia is “bound by the absolute prohibition” against the use of torture and other forms of cruel punishment.