SAUDI ARABIA/SRI LANKA: Rizana Nafeek appeal reaches the critical stage
The Asian Human Rights Commission has reliably learned that Rizana Nafeek's appeal has reached the critical stage as her file, which was pending before the External Affairs Ministry has now been handed over to the office of His Royal Highness the King of Saudi Arabia for his Majesty's final decision.
The decision could be 1) to pardon her and order her release, 2) to confirm the court's verdict which would mean immediate execution, 3) to freeze the file, which means that the file will not be decided upon indefinitely.
His Royal Highness the King can make any one of these decisions at any time. If the decision is an adverse one the execution will be imminent.
For those who wish to intervene with his Royal Highness the King to seek pardon for Rizana Nafeek now is the time.
The Asian Human Rights Commission has, for over five years now, during which time Rizana has languished in jail, brought the attention of the world to one of the most unjust death verdicts of a young girl from Sri Lanka who went to Saudi Arabia for employment due to the dire poverty of her family and who was exposed to a charge of murder with a month of her arrival. An accidental death in the course bottle feeding an infant has been attributed to her as a murder. All the circumstance of the case clearly pointed out that the charge itself was baseless and there was no evidence at all to support a conviction for premeditated murder.
Further, it has been established in the court itself that this young girl, who spoke only Tamil, had no translator at the time when the police recorded her confession in Arabic. It was revealed in the court that the alleged interpreter was not a Tamil speaker and that he was from the Karanake state of India where the spoken language is not Tamil. Besides this, when the court wanted to question this 'interpreter' is was also found that he had left the country.
Young Rizana Nafeek has consistently denied the charges and protested her innocence.
It is beyond question that this girl from Sri Lanka did not receive legal assistance at the stage of being questioned by the police or at the stage of the original court case where the verdict of death was pronounced. The basic entitlements of any accused for a proper defence were denied to her completely. Therefore the verdict has been made without guaranteeing fair trial.
The question is not one of differences of legal systems in Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia. It is one of the rights to a fair trial under whatever system exists. Saudi Arabia is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and a member of the United Nations. Saudi Arabia has always claimed that it is a part of the international community and it holds itself responsible for upholding human rights as enunciated by the basic documents of the United Nations beginning with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
What the world is witnessing in the case of Rizana Nafeek is a blatant case of the abuse of a criminal conviction without guaranteeing basic rights to a human being. That this person happened to be migrant worker of very young age, coming from a war torn village and was in Saudi Arabia for only a month before the allegations were made all contribute to demonstrate the basic unfairness and the injustice in this case.
The President of Sri Lanka has officially requested pardon for Rizana according to an announcement from the Presidential Secretariat in Sri Lanka. The government has also announced that it is making all efforts to seek pardon from the King and also from the family of the deceased child through all its diplomatic efforts.
During the last years a large international intervention has been made to the government of Saudi Arabia from all over the world to seek pardon for this young girl. These efforts continue.
The Asian Human Rights Commission is now urging the governments of Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia to do all they can in these final moments to ensure that the death sentence is negated and she is released. We also call upon all concerned persons throughout the world to make a final and decisive intervention to seek pardon for Rizana Nafeek.
We provide here the link to the appeal: SAUDI ARABIA/SRI LANKA: Government urged to act rapidly for the release of Rizana Nafeek