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In 13 years Saudi Arabia deprived 504 foreigners of the right to life through beheading after unfair sentences, violating international law

29 countries, from 2004 to 2017 Saudi.

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Foreigners residing in Saudi Arabia suffer from a number of violations including the sponsorship system, or violations caused by the judiciary, as in general, beheading based on judicial sentences lack fair conditions. According to the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights statistics, Saudi Arabia has executed 1286 individual including 504 foreigners, during the last 13 years, from August 2004 till the end of 2017.

The charges faced by the executed foreigners in Saudi Arabia, varied; as among the 504 cases there are 263 executions for drugs offenses, 40 executions for charges of witchcraft, theft and rape. Saudi Arabia repeatedly claims that it only sentences to death only for the ‘most serious of crimes’, despite international laws assertion that the most serious are only those crimes that intentionally to lead directly to death: Crimes that do not lead directly and intentionally to death are not considered the most serious crimes”, paragraph 23.

Based on that definition of what constitutes the ‘most serious of crimes’, at least 60% of the capital sentences implemented against foreigners in Saudi Arabia, are not classified among the most serious charges. In fact, the percentage may increase it is taken into consideration that some murder crimes did not lead “directly and intentionally to death”.

The UN special rapporteurs referred to the lack of fair trial conditions that foreigners in Saudi Arabia have faced in a number of communication they addressed to the Saudi government. In this regard, ESOHR monitored the following:

  • In September 2015 a letter by four UN special rapporteurs mentioned the case of the Jordan detainee Hussein Abu Al Khair who is sentenced to death for drugs offenses. The letter explained that besides Abu Kheir facing non serious charges, he did not get his right to a fair trial, including no communication with a lawyer and extracting confessions from him under torture and using them against him in the court.
  • In August 2015, four special rapporteurs sent a letter to the Saudi government regarding death sentences issued with respect to 7 Pakistani individuals for drugs charges. The rapporteurs confirmed that the seven Pakistanis were subjected to a number of violations, including not having a translator, which led to them signing confessions they know nothing about them; the rapporteurs also raised concerns regarding allegations of torture.
  • In January 2013, three special rapporteurs sent a letter to the Saudi government regarding a death sentence that was issued against the Sri Lankan worker Rizana Nkiv for murder. The Rapporteurs pointed out that there was a failure to provide her access to both an interpreter when arrested, nor a lawyer. They also confirmed that the charge took place when she was a child at age of 17, yet she was executed nearly after a month of the rapporteurs’ letter, despite the Saudi claims that they do not execute children.

The number of foreigners who are currently facing death sentences in Saudi Arabia is unknown due to the low transparency in the criminal justice system, although figures appear from other sources.

In this regard, in April 2018 the “Diplomacy” newspaper, specialized in Asian and the Pacific affairs, published a report on the Saudi execution of an Indonesian national worker in March 2018, without informing the concerned Indonesian diplomatic authorities. The execution was carried out despite the Indonesian president’s request to lessen the punishment after some information about the lack of fair conditions in the trial, such as the insufficient access to legal aid. Furthermore, it was mentioned that Saudi Arabia often implements execution sentences against migrant workers and this prompted the Indonesian authorities in 2011 to start the moratorium regarding sending workers to Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, the report confirmed that there are 20 Indonesian citizens currently facing the capital punishment.

In addition to the Indonesians, at least 10 Pakistanis are currently facing death sentences, according to the Pakistan Justice Project, who report that the 10 individuals were not given fair trial conditions and were subjected to torture.

The European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights believes that the death sentences implemented by Saudi Arabia against foreigners, and the imminent sentences that threatens unknown numbers so far, violates international human rights standards and the Saudi human rights obligations. Allegations of foreigners exposed to torture violates the Convention against Torture that Saudi Arabia ratified in 1997. Furthermore, the deprivation of foreigners from free services of interpreters violates article 14 (3) (and) of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights: “to provide, for free, an interpreter in case the individual does not understand or talk the used language in the trial”.

The organisation asserts that the Saudi government’s denial of foreigners, who are facing execution, from getting consular assistance and support from the family, is considered a factor that helps to arbitrary implement the deprivation of life. In accordance to the annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner, paragraph 30, during the 30th session of the Human Rights Council in 2015, considered that “the denial of the right to notify the consulates is a violation of the due legal processes, and the implementation of executions against the foreign nationals who are deprived from their right to have consulate services is an arbitrary deprivation of life”.

Likewise, the Saudi governments refusal to deal transparently in the case of prisoners, who are facing capital punishment,, including 13 years the organisation has recorded any beyond, raise more serious concerns on vast numbers of imprisoned foreigners in the country.

According to the organisation, the statistics on the number of foreigners who were executed over more than a decade in Saudi Arabia along with others who are currently facing execution, mostly for non-serious charges, indicates also the extent of failure in the justice system in Saudi Arabia at different stages of detention and trial. The unjust justice system in Saudi Arabia, has so far led to the deprivation of the right to life of citizens from 29 countries, which indicates the importance of monitoring that Saudi abides by its commitment that it has previously committed too, as well as monitoring to ensure that Saudi Arabia conducts itself in a way which is consistent with its position as a member for the fourth time in HRC.

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