Brazil and the Netherlands have recalled their ambassadors to Indonesia in protest over their citizens being executed by firing squad on drugs charges, despite appeals for clemency.

The foreigners from Brazil, the Netherlands, Vietnam, Malawi, and Nigeria were executed at around midnight (18 January, 2014), said authorities.

A sixth person, Indonesian woman Rani Andriani, was also executed.

"The execution of the six convicts has been carried out," spokesman for the attorney general's office, Tony Spontana, told news agency AFP.

Brazil declared its outrage at the execution of its citizen, Marco Archer Cardoso Moreira, 53, who was arrested at Jakarta airport in 2003, after police found 13.4 kg of cocaine in his hang glider.

"Relations between the two countries have been affected," said Brazillian president Dilma Rousseff.

"The Brazilian ambassador to Jakarta has been recalled for consultations," she added.

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders called the execution of Dutch citizen Ang Kiem Soe, 52, "an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity" and also recalled its ambassador, reports the BBC.

Rousseff earlier appealed to Indonesian president Joko Widodo for clemency, be he rejected the appeal, arguing that he would not intervene as full legal process had been followed.

Authorities said that the executions were necessary as a deterrent.

"What we do is merely aimed at protecting our nation from the danger of drugs," Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo said on Thursday.

"There is no excuse for drug dealers, and hopefully this will have a deterrent effect."

Five of the convicts were killed on Nusakambangan Island, off the south coast of the Indonesian island of Java.

The sixth was killed in Java's Boyolali district.

Indonesia has some of the world's toughest drugs laws, and resumed executions in 2013 after a four year unofficial moratorium.

Roughly a third of the 138 people on death row in Indonesia are foreign.