Annual Report 2013
The state of the world's human rights

6 November 2009

Background: Foreign nationals on death row in Saudi Arabia

Background: Foreign nationals on death row in Saudi Arabia

 At least 158 people, including 76 foreign nationals, were executed by the Saudi Arabian authorities in 2007, and at least 102 people, including almost 40 foreign nationals, were executed in 2008. Since the beginning of 2009, a further 61 people are known to have been executed, including 18 foreign nationals.

Amnesty International is aware of at least 137 people currently on death row in Saudi Arabia, of which 106 are foreign nationals. The true figures are believed to be much higher.

Those foreign nationals include the following individuals:

  • Siti Zainab Binti Duhri Rupa, a 41-year-old Indonesian domestic worker and mother of two, was arrested in September 1999 in connection with the murder of her female employer. She was convicted and sentenced to death despite lack of legal representation at her trial and reports that she suffers from a mental disorder. She is reported to have been convicted after she “confessed” to murdering her employer during police interrogation. Siti Rupa has not yet been executed as the employer's child has not yet reached the age of majority to request her sentence of death or pardon her. In qesas (retribution) cases, the heirs of the murder victims have the right to pardon the offender either freely or in exchange for compensation. The age of the child is unknown in this case. However, the president of the National Human Rights Commission in Saudi Arabia informed Amnesty International that her case had been referred for review to the relevant authorities but no other information has been received since.
  • Nigerian national Suliamon Olyfemi was sentenced to death in May 2005 for the murder of a policeman in 2002. He was one of 13 Nigerian nationals arrested in September 2002 in connection with the murder. He was forced to fingerprint a confession that he could not read as it was in Arabic, a language he does not understand, during the interrogation and this was used as evidence against him in the trial. During his trial, which was conducted in Arabic, Suliamon Olyfemi had no access to legal representation or consular assistance, and reportedly was not provided with adequate translation. He has exhausted all appeals and could be executed at any time.
  • Rizana Nafeek, a Sri Lankan domestic worker, was sentenced to death in 2007 for the alleged murder of her employer's baby. She was 17 at the time of the alleged crime. She had no access to lawyers either during interrogation or at trial, and it is believed that she confessed to the murder during police questioning but has since retracted her confession. Her case is still at appeal.
  • Indian nationals Sheikh Mastan and Hamza Abu Bakir were arrested in January 2004 on charges of drug possession and sentenced to death by a court in al-Dammam in June 2006. However, they had no legal representation throughout the judicial process. Very little is known about their trial except that their convictions and sentences are said to have been upheld on appeal. The sentences are awaiting the approval of the Supreme Judicial Council, which is headed by the King. If the sentences are approved, the two men could be executed within days.


Death Penalty 


Saudi Arabia 


Middle East And North Africa 

@amnestyonline on twitter


29 July 2014

Burundi’s ruling party is perpetrating a relentless campaign of intimidation against government critics and its youth wing is carrying out crimes with impunity ahead of next... Read more »

31 July 2014

The US government must immediately end its ongoing deliveries of large quantities of arms to Israel, which are providing the tools to commit further serious violations of... Read more »

22 July 2014

Indonesia’s new President Joko Widodo must deliver on campaign promises to improve Indonesia’s dire human rights situation, Amnesty International said.

Read more »
01 August 2014

Governments across Europe and the European Union (EU) must swiftly sign and ratify the Istanbul Convention, a new continent-wide tool to prevent and combat violence against... Read more »

01 August 2014

A sharp rise in arrests, prosecutions and imprisonment of independent journalists in Iran signals the authorities’ utter determination to crush hopes for increased freedom... Read more »