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Stop the Execution of Rizana Nafeek in Saudi Arabia

Targeting: President Mahinda Rajapakse (Socialist Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka C/- Office of the President )

26th October 2010, the Asian Human Rights Commission issued a press release containing the following alarming information:

The death sentence has been confirmed in the case of a young Sri Lankan Muslim girl, Rizana Nafeek. She was charged with strangling the 4-month-old child of the family for whom she worked as a housemaid. She was legally allowed only 30 days from the date of the court order to make her appeal. An appeal was made on her behalf by the intervention of human rights groups who paid for the lawyers and her death sentence was set aside pending appeal.

Rizana Nafeek was born on February 4, 1988 and comes from a war-torn, impoverished village. Here, many families try to send their under aged children for employment outside the country, as their breadwinners. Some employment agencies exploit the situation of the impoverished families to recruit under aged girls for employment. For that purpose they engage in obtaining passports by altering the dates of birth of these children to make it appear that they are older than they really are. In the case of Rizana Nafeek, the altered date, which is to be found in her passport now, is February 2, 1982. It was on the basis of this altered date that the employment agency fixed her employment in Saudi Arabia and she went there in May 2005.

She went to work at the house of Mr. Naif Jiziyan Khalaf Al Otaibi whose wife had a new-born baby boy. A short time after she started working for this family she was assigned to bottle feed the infant who was by then four months old. Rizana Nafeek had no experience of any sort in caring for such a young infant. She was left alone when bottle feeding the child. While she was feeding the child the boy started choking, as so often happens to babies and Rizana Nafeek panicked and while shouting for help tried to sooth the child by feeling the chest, neck and face, doing whatever she could to help him. At her shouting the mother arrived but by that time the baby was either unconscious or dead. Unfortunately, misunderstanding the situation the family members treated the teenager very harshly and handed her over to the police, accusing her of strangling the baby. At the police station also, she was very harshly handled and did not have the help of a translator or anyone else to whom she could explain what had happened. She was made to sign a confession and later charges were filed in court of murder by strangulation.

On her first appearance in court she was sternly warned by the police to repeat her confession, which she did. However, later she was able to talk to an interpreter who was sent by the Sri Lankan embassy and she explained in her own language the circumstances of what had happened as stated above. This version was also stated in court thereafter.

According to reports, the judges who heard the case requested the father of the child to use his prerogative to pardon the young girl. However, the father refused to grant such pardon. On that basis the court sentenced her to death by beheading. This sentence was made on June 16, 2007.

The said murder allegedly took place in February 2005 when Rizana Nafeek was only 17 years old. Sources said she had modified her age on her passport so that she could enter Saudi Arabia to work. Accordingly, she was still considered a minor by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child.

Rizana Nafeek’s case is now before an advisor to his Royal Highness the King who has the power to pardon her.

There is good reason to grant her a pardon as no real crime is involved when a 17 year-old girl with no experience has to bottle feed an infant and as a result there is an accident by way of the infant choking. At the initial stages of the case the accused young girl did not have legal representation or any assistance from her Embassy and did not even have a proper translation of what was going on. This tragedy which has been taken up as a crime should not lead to another tragedy of a young girl being beheaded for no crime at all.

Source: Asian Human Rights Commission

See the Safe World Website for more info about Children’s Rights

Please sign the petition to Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse to request that he urgently appeals to His Royal Highness, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, to save Rizana Nafeek.

 

Petition Text

Request for intervention to stop the death sentence of Rizana Nafeek

Your Excellency,

I am writing this to request your intervention to save the life of a young Sri Lankan Muslim girl, Rizana Nafeek, a migrant worker who is facing the death sentence in Saudi Arabia. I understand that the case is well known to you and that, in fact, you have in the past discussed this case with Sri Lankan Embassy personnel in Saudi Arabia and one of your ministers was also sent to that country to intervene in her case. The matter has been brought to you notice since 2007.

As you are aware, an appeal was made on Rizana Nafeek’s behalf for which the lawyer’s fee was paid by human rights organisations and the Embassy personnel arranged the lawyers. After the appeal the Embassy personnel informed that they were following up the case before the courts. The appeal was pending for a long time as the sole witness who allegedly took the confession from the then 17-year-old Rizana Nafeek was missing. To our knowledge the court was unable to locate him. However, the Arab News Agency recently reported that the court had confirmed her death sentence.

As you are well aware, a death sentence by beheading can be carried out in Saudi Arabia quite quickly. Now the saving of the life of this young girl depends on the speedy pardon by His Royal Highness The King. There cannot be any quicker way of doing this than your own direct intervention as the head of state of Sri Lanka with His Royal Highness.

I sincerely hope you will personally intervene and do your utmost to save the life of this young Muslim girl who went to work in a foreign country because of dire poverty.

Thank you.

[Your name]

  • Edrie Irvine

    Edrie Irvine (Silver Spring, MD)

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    Rose Randel (Toronto, Canada)

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    Mehrzad MEHRBEOMID (tehran, Iran, Islamic Republic of)

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