SAUDI ARABIA/SRI LANKA: Do not let Rizana Nafeek become a victim of Saudi Arabia's infamous practise of executing juvenile offenders
The Asian Human Rights Commission once again wishes to draw your attention to the case of Rizana Nafeek, the innocent Sri Lankan girl, who has been sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia.
Coming from a poor and war-torn family Rizana Nafeek went to Saudi Arabia as a maid in May 2005. A recruitment agency in Sri Lanka altered her date of birth in her passport making her 23 years-of-age when in fact her birth certificate later confirmed she was 17 at the time. When the infant of her employers died in her care, she was charged with murder and sentenced to death. Under harsh treatment and without a proper translator, a confession was drawn from the hapless girl at the police station, where she was also made to sign a confession in a language she did not understand. After getting access to a lawyer and being able to express the circumstances in her own language, she later retracted the confession. Nafeek explained that the incident was an accident where the child suffocated, while being bottle-fed.
Nafeek has already spent 5 years in prison. Her death sentence was confirmed in late October, 2010 after the appeal process was complete. The international community has condemned the sentence and many voices in the Arabian world as well as in Saudi Arabia have raised their concern over the unjustness of the case and pleading for clemency for the innocent girl.
However, continuous pressure needs to be put on His Royal Highness King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia and The Minister of Interior to grant her clemency and urge for a pardon by the employing family.
Nafeek was neither mature enough nor qualified to be entrusted the job as a care giver, a job which she had no choice than accepting. While the death of the child is extremely tragic and unfortunate, Rizana who was also a child at the time should not be held responsible for it.
Saudi Arabia ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1996 and is bound not to execute people convicted of crimes committed when they were under the age of 18. However, Saudi Arabia still has an extensive practise of imposing death penalty on juveniles.
Saudi Arabia has one of the highest rates of executions in the world. According to Amnesty International's statistics of death penalties and executions carried out around the world, at least 69 executions were carried out in Saudi Arabia in 2009 with 102 in 2008. At the end of 2009, Amnesty International has reported that at least 141 people are on death row in Saudi Arabia, including at least 104 foreign nationals, with migrant workers from developing countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East being the main victims.
We earnestly ask for your intervention into the case of Rizana Nafeek.
Kindly see our urgent appeal on the case and write to the relevant authorities: AHRC-UAU-041-2010.
For further information on the case please see: AHRC-STM-214-2010, STM-003-2009, STM-258-2008, UA-207-2007, UP-097-2007, UP-093-2007; PL-023-2007, UG-004-2007.