The executions of three foreign nationals in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday have been strongly condemned by Amnesty International.
Two Sri Lankans and one Indian were beheaded in the city of Jeddah. They had been sentenced to death in June 2007 for their alleged killing of a woman at her home during an armed burglary in November 2005.
Sri Lankan national Haleema Nissa Cader, who was the mother of a young child, her Indian national husband Muhammad Naushad Barmil and Sri Lankan national K M S Bandaranaike are believed to have been convicted on the basis of “confessions” which were obtained during police interrogation under duress.
They had no legal representation whilst in detention or at any stage of the proceedings.
The Court of Cassation in Makkah upheld their sentence in 2009 and it was ratified by the Supreme Judicial Council.
Amnesty International had repeatedly campaigned on their behalf.
The last foreign national to be executed in Saudi Arabia was Munir Ahmed Hussein Shah, a Bangladeshi national, who was beheaded on 7 August for rape and murder.
Before him, Nigerian national Qorbi bin Musa Adam was executed on 2 August in Jeddah for the charge of murder.
According to Amnesty International statistics, almost half of the recorded total of executions consisted of foreign nationals, mostly migrant workers from developing countries.
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 said that it is aware of at least 137 people currently on death row, of which 106 are foreign nationals. The true figures are believed to be much higher.
Defendants, particularly poor foreign migrant workers from developing countries in Africa and Asia, often have no defence lawyer and are unable to follow court proceedings in Arabic.
They, and many of the Saudi Arabians who are executed, also have no access to influential figures such as government authorities or heads of tribes, nor to money, both crucial factors in securing a pardon in murder cases.
Saudi Arabia applies the death penalty for a wide range of offences. Court proceedings fall far short of international standards for fair trial.
Defendants are rarely allowed formal representation by a lawyer, and in many cases are not informed of the progress of legal proceedings against them.
They may be convicted solely on the basis of confessions obtained under duress or deception.