SAUDI ARABIA/SRI LANKA: The AHRC writes to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II seeking intervention to save the life of Rizana Nafeek facing the death sentence in Saudi Arabia

(Hong Kong, June 5, 2012) On the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II the Asian Human Rights Commission has sought Her Majesty’s kind intervention to save the life of the Sri Lankan housemaid languishing in Dawadami Prison in Saudi Arabia and facing the death sent for a crime she did not commit.

The letter is attached below:

Your Majesty,

On the occasion of the celebrations for Your Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee, I am writing this on behalf of the Asian Human Rights Commission to request your kind intervention to save the life of Rizana Nafeek, a Sri Lankan girl who was sentenced to death by beheading in Saudi Arabia for a crime that she did not commit. When she was only seventeen years old, she went to Saudi Arabia to serve as a domestic helper in order to help her family who were facing extreme poverty. Shortly after undertaking this work, a four month old infant of the family she was serving unfortunately died from some natural cause. However, the family she was serving was shocked by the sudden death and accused the seventeen year old domestic helper of being responsible. There was no post-mortem to determine the cause of death and there was no evidence of any kind of foul play relating to this infant’s death to implicate the young Sri Lankan girl.

However, on the basis of accusations of the family, she was arrested by the police, mistreated and coerced, and a confession was obtained from her by force. It has been proved that she spoke only Tamil and that she did not understand a word of Arabic. She was not offered the services of a translator who knew her language. She was later produced at the Dawdami High Court and there too she did not have an interpreter. She was convicted by the court and was sentenced to death by beheading on June 16, 2007. Though she was given 30 days to make an appeal, she was in no position to do so as she was unable to get any legal assistance. When this matter was revealed by the media through the BBC Sinhala Service, we, the Asian Human Rights Commission, collected the legal fees and helped her to file an appeal. Several years later, purely on the technical ground that she had made a confession, the appeal was turned down and ever since there had been an international campaign to seek her pardon and to get her released.

His Excellency the President of Sri Lanka himself officially intervened, and sought pardon from His Royal Highness the King of Saudi Arabia. Among the other dignitaries, your son, His Royal Highness Prince Charles, also intervened on her behalf. Most recently, The European Union’s High Representative and Vice President Catherine Ashton has also announced that they have intervened on this matter and that they will pursue efforts on her behalf together with the Sri Lankan government. The world over, millions of persons have written to the Saudi authorities on her behalf. In Sri Lanka, her parents and many others have publicly campaigned to get her released and the world’s leading media agencies have given publicity to her case.¬†

She has been languishing in jail for over five years now. We believe that Your Majesty’s intervention would secure this unfortunate girl her release. Therefore we respectfully request Your Majesty’s intervention on this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Basil Fernando
Director of Policy and Programs
Asian Human Rights Commission

Document Type : Press Release
Document ID : AHRC-PRL-018-2012
Countries : Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka,
Issues : Child rights, Death penalty, Migrant workers,