RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia must stop the use of the death penalty following a "significant increase" in executions in the kingdom in the last six weeks, Amnesty International said Friday.
At least 27 people have been executed in the top oil exporter in 2011, equalling the total number of people executed in 2010 while 15 were executed in May alone, the rights group said in a statement.
Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under the kingdom's strict interpretation of sharia law.
"The Saudi authorities must immediately stop executions and commute all death sentences, with a view to abolishing the death penalty completely," said Philip Luther, the group's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Amnesty is aware of over 100 prisoners, many of whom are foreign nationals currently on death row, he added.
A spokesman at the Ministry of Interior was not immediately available to comment.
Two Saudi brothers Muhammad Jaber Shahbah al-Ja'id and Sa'ud Jaber Shahbah al-Ja'id are at imminent risk of execution, the rights group said, adding that they were sentenced to death in 1998 by a court in Mecca for the murder of a Saudi man.
King Abdullah ratified their sentences in April 2011 and it is feared that they could be executed at any time, the report said.
The two did not have access to a lawyer during their pre-trial investigation or their trial while Sa'ud confessed to the murder under duress as the authorities arrested his father in order to put pressure on him, the report added.
Five of those executed this year are foreign nationals, Amnesty said.
In 2010 at least 27 were executed including six foreign nationals, down from 2009 when 69 including 19 foreign nationals were executed.
Some 102 people including almost 40 foreign nationals were executed in 2008 while in 2007 at least 158 people, including 76 foreign nationals were executed, Amnesty said.