SAUDI ARABIA / SRI LANKA: UPDATE: Death sentence case in Saudi — a protest against unfair reporting by the Island Newspaper

The Sri Lankan government has not yet decided to pay the legal fees for the appeal from the death sentence of Rizana Nafeek while the deadline for the appeal is on July 16, 2007; nor has the government made any arrangements to facilitate the many offers of the payment of the legal fees by others.

Meanwhile the Asian Human Rights Commission has received several requests from concerned persons who want to assist in this case. A Sri Lankan employee in Dubai telephoned the AHRC office this afternoon, and stated that he is willing to offer his entire salary to assist in this case. Many others have been sending appeals to the Sri Lankan embassy in Riyadh.

Two news agencies based in Saudi Arabia itself have given fair and extensive coverage regarding the case and the problems relating to the appeal.

Meanwhile, the Island, a newspaper published in Sri Lanka, issued an article on the case today (July 10). The AHRC has sent a letter to the editor protesting this news item as a piece of unfair reporting. The protest letter sent to the editor is reproduced below.

July 10, 2007

The Editor
The Island Newspaper
Upali Newspapers Limited
223, Bloemendhal Road, 
Colombo 13
Sri Lanka

Dear Sir,

Re: Your article “Lankan Embassy in Saudi battles for teenager’s life”

I refer to the article “Lankan Embassy in Saudi battles for teenager’s life” which appeared in today’s edition of the Island which unfortunately is not a piece of fair reporting.

Contrary to your report the factual situation is that due to the non-payment of the fees of the legal firm no appeal has yet been filed on behalf of Rizana Nafeek, despite of the deadline for the appeal being July 16.

Your article has also omitted many parts of relevant information from the media release of the Sri Lankan embassy in Saudi Arabia, which has clearly stated that they have not been able to get the documents relating to this case, and are therefore not in a position to file the appeal before the deadline. A further omission is that it is the claim of the 17 year-old Nafeek that she was ordered to bottle feed a four month old infant, for which job she had no experience, and that the death was caused due to choking, which was misunderstood by the family. The actual situation of the case, as reported correctly by several media agencies, including those in Saudi Arabia itself, is that the government of Sri Lanka has not approved the payment of the lawyer’s fees in this case and therefore despite of the efforts of the Sri Lankan embassy in Saudi Arabia to contact a legal firm, the work for the appeal has not yet begun due to the legal fees not being paid and the documents not being obtained.

Many media channels including the BBC Sinhala Service have reported that several agencies have volunteered to help with the legal fees if the government takes the responsibility for facilitating the appeal, and this too has been ignored.

The result of such information regarding this case being suppressed may prevent interventions on the part of readers when in fact the possibility of another execution of a migrant worker is quite possible unless some urgent action is taken within the coming five to six days.

Thank you.

Yours faithfully,

John Sloan
Asian Human Rights Commission

Those who wish to learn more about the appeal on behalf of Razina Nafeek and may wish to participate by writing letters may refer to the following web references.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-160-2007
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Campaigns : Save Rizana Nafeek
Issues : Death penalty,