The public execution of six Somali nationals in Saudi Arabia on Monday was a shocking abuse of human rights, according to Amnesty International (AI).
"Six Somalis were suddenly executed in public on 4 April without being informed in advance that their five-year prison sentences, which they had served - and also been lashed - by May 2004, had apparently been changed later to death sentences by a secret procedure," Martin Hill, Horn of Africa researcher for AI, said on Thursday.
Ali Sheikh Yusuf, Abdel-Fatar Ali Hassan, Abdullah Adam Abdullah, Hussein Haroon Mohamed, Abdul-Nur Mohamed Wali and Abdullah Hassan Abdu had been detained in a prison in Jeddah, one of Saudi Arabia's main cities, since their conviction for theft in May 1999.
AI said that the trial of the men, said to be migrant workers from Somali capital Mogadishu, had been inconsistent with international standards on fairness.
The six Somalis were unaware that they were at risk of death, according to AI, which said it had written to the Saudi minister of interior regarding the men’s status, but had received no response.
Decrying the secrecy surrounding the Saudi Arabian criminal justice system, the human-rights watchdog said that most defendants and their families were not informed of the charges against them, nor of the progress of legal proceedings.
It further stated that defendants could be convicted solely on the basis of confessions obtained under duress, torture or deception.
Trial proceedings took place behind closed doors, AI said, and those accused had no right to legal representation - while in the case of foreign nationals, inadequate or no access to consular assistance was allowed.
AI put the total number of people executed in Saudi Arabia in the last four months at 51, almost two-thirds of which were foreign nationals.
It called on Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd to commute all outstanding death sentences, and to bring Saudi trial proceedings into line with international standards.
According to the Somali press, human-rights groups in Mogadishu have also condemned the executions as illegal and contrary to both Islamic Shariah law and international law.
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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions