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‘2,500 Pakistanis still imprisoned in Saudi jails’

Activists ask authorities to repatriate them

SAMAA | - Posted: May 5, 2021 | Last Updated: 6 months ago
Posted: May 5, 2021 | Last Updated: 6 months ago

Families of detained migrant workers protesting outside the Lahore Press Club in 2016. Photo: Justice Project Pakistan

Two years ago, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman promised to return over 2,000 Pakistanis imprisoned in Saudi jails back to their homeland. This promise, however, remains yet to be fulfilled, said human rights organisations in a joint statement on Wednesday.

Only 89 prisoners had returned by late 2019 since the promise was made, according to Justice Project Pakistan.

Related: How I went for Umrah but ended up in prison

The foreign ministry submitted a list in the Lahore High Court in December 2019 which showed that less than 5% of those who had returned had come back after February 2019. The number of Pakistani still imprisoned in Saudi jails is nearly 2,500.

Human rights organisations have said that Ramazan is an excellent opportunity to reflect on the principles of forgiveness, mercy, and compassion enshrined in Islam. “These Pakistani citizens have spent a long time imprisoned in a foreign country, away from their homes, families, and loved ones,” they said.

Death sentence

Pakistanis convicted for drug offences are particularly vulnerable to being sentenced to death and likely to be executed in countries that carry out the death penalty. 

An analysis of 97 executions of Pakistanis carried out in Saudi Arabia and Iran shows that, since January 2016, every nine out of 10 executions have been in relation to drug offences. There has been an increase in the number of Pakistanis on death row abroad and the number of executions carried out globally between 2014 and 2019. Pakistani citizens accounted for 57% of the reported Saudi death-row population and 35% of the foreign nationals executed by the Kingdom in 2019.  

More Pakistanis are executed in the Kingdom than any other foreign nationals, reports Caught in a Web: Treatment of Pakistanis in the Saudi Criminal Justice System (2018). The research was conducted by the Justice Project Pakistan and Human Rights Watch.

Related: Five reasons why Pakistanis in Saudi prisons fail to get justice

However, according to a recent report by Harm Reduction International (HRI), confirmed executions for drug offences in Saudi Arabia dropped 94% between 2019 and 2020.

The statement has been published by Justice Project Pakistan, Harm Reduction International, Anti Death Penalty Asia Network, Digital Rights Foundation, Capital Punishment Justice Project, Eleos Justice, and Monash University Equidem.

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