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SAUDI ARABIA/SRI LANKA: Death sentence to young girl requires urgent intervention by the Sri Lankan government

June 27, 2007

URGENT ACTION URGENT ACTION URGENT ACTION URGENT ACTION

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal

27 June 2007
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UA-207-2007: SAUDI ARABIA/SRI LANKA: Death sentence to young girl requires urgent intervention by the Sri Lankan government

SAUDI ARABIA/SRI LANKA: Death penalty; right to life; rule of law
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) needs your immediate intervention in the case of a Sri Lankan migrant worker, Nafeek Rizana, who has been sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for allegedly killing a 4-month-old child. The deadline for her appeal has been set for June 30, but she cannot afford legal aid and the government of Sri Lanka has yet to provide necessary aid. With the appeal deadline fast-approaching and the death sentence impending, we are desperately pleading to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia for clemency.

DETAILED INFORMATION:

Nafeek Rizana of Muttur, has been sentenced to death by the Daw Admi High Courts in Saudi Arabia on 30 May. She has been charged with strangling the 4-month-old child of the family for whom she worked as a housemaid. She is legally allowed only 30 days from the date of the court order to make her appeal. The Sri Lankan Embassy points out that she had previously pleaded guilty, but in a latter statement, she claimed that the employer had been harassing her to make a confession. The Embassy has made an appeal to the Sri Lankan Foreign Employment Bureau for funding for the case, but the funding has yet to come.

The said murder allegedly took place in February 2005 when Nafeek Rizana 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.

As the deadline for the appeal is imminent, the AHRC urges the Sri Lankan government to provide legal aid to Nafeek Rizana without further delay. It is the duty of the Sri Lankan government to protect its citizens who are working abroad, and the government should take special care to assist in Nafeek Rizana’s case, as she was only a minor in the labor force.

The AHRC pleads for clemency for the life of Nafeek Rizana to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, especially given that she committed the alleged crime when she was 17 years old. We also kindly request that His Excellency take into account the international human rights standards, which seek to abolish the death penalty.

The AHRC also asks the President of Sri Lanka to take part in seeking clemency for Rizana by directly writing to King Abdullah and exhausting all diplomatic and legal means available to help the young woman in her dire time of need.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please send letters to the Sri Lanka government asking for immediate legal aid and other necessary assistance on behalf of Nafeek Rizana so that her appeal made proceed. Please also write to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia seeking clemency for Rizana Nasik.

To support this appeal which delivers to Sri Lankan authorities, please click here:

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SAMPLE LETTER 1 (to King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia):

Your Royal Highness,

This is to plead for clemency for the life of Nafeek Rizana, who has been sentenced to death by the High Court in Daw Admi.

I plead with you to grant clemency to Nafeek Rizana, a young migrant worker who was 17 years old when charged with alleged infanticide and sentenced to death by the High Court in Daw Admi.

I trust that Your Excellency will understands that as both a migrant worker and a minor, Rizana would have been at best ill-prepared for trial, lacking both legal capability and necessary funds. Therefore, we desperately plead for Your Excellency to have mercy on Rizana and pardon her from the impending death penalty.

As a believer in Your Excellency’s goodness and the compassionate nature of Islam, I sincerely hope that Your Excellency will demonstrate mercy toward young Rizana and grant her clemency.

Yours sincerely,

_______________


PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
Royal Court, Riyadh
SAUDI ARABIA 

2. HRH Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud
Minister of Interior
PO Box 2933
Riyadh 11134
SAUDI ARABIA
Fax: +(966) 1-403 1185

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SAMPLE LETTER 2 (to Sri Lankan authorities):

Dear __________,

SAUDI ARABIA/SRI LANKA: Death sentence to young girl requires urgent intervention by the Sri Lankan government

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding a young Sri Lankan migrant worker, Nafeek Rizana, who was sentenced to the death in Saudi Arabia for allegedly committing infanticide. I am aware that at the time of the said crime, Rizana was only 17 years old. The deadline for her appeal is imminent, 30 June 2007, but she cannot afford legal aid and the Sri Lanka government has yet to provide necessary legal and financial assistance.

I am informed that Nafeek Rizana of Mutter, was charged with strangling the 4-month-old child of the family for whom she worked as a housemaid. At the time of the alleged crime, she was 17 years old, only a minor, according to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Nevertheless, she has been sentenced to a beheading by the Daw Admi High Courts in Saudi Arabia on 30 May 2007. She was legally allowed only 30 days from the court decision date to appeal her case however it is reported that she is unable to appeal to the court due to lack of fund.

I am learned that the Sri Lankan Embassy has pointed out that she once plead guilty; however, in a latter statement she said that the employer had harassed her to make a confession and therefore, her forced confession may not be valid. Moreover, it was apparently the employer who had demanded that she receive the death sentence. Given these circumstances, there seems to be reasonable grounds for appeal. Even though the Sri Lankan Embassy has made an appeal to the Sri Lankan Foreign Employment Bureau for funding the appellate case, the funding has not come and the appeal deadline fast approaches. I believe it is the responsibility of the Sri Lankan government to come to the aid of its citizens, especially when they are abroad and thereby disadvantaged.

Most emphatically, I plead with you to hastily request the King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia to pardon the death sentence of Nafeek Rizana, especially given that she committed the alleged crime when she was only a child. As you well know, the death penalty cannot be reconciled with today’s international human rights standards. The statement also calls for a “moratorium” on the use of the death penalty.

I urge you to intervene in a swift and sincere manner on the behalf of young Rizana. Surely, she would not have received such a harsh and inhuman sentence if she were tried in her country. I also urge you to directly contact to King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia and plead to exercise mercy and grant clemency to Nafeek Rizana.

Yours sincerely,

______________

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse
President
Socialist Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka
C/- Office of the President
Temple Trees
150, Galle Road
Colombo 3
SRI LANKA
Fax: +94 11 2472100 / +94 11 2446657
Email: secretary@presidentsoffice.lk

2. Mr. Ratnasiri Wickremanayake
Prime Minister
Temple Trees
Galle Road, Colombo 03
SRI LANKA
Tel: +94 11 2 575317-8 or 370 737-8
Fax: +94 11 2 575454

3. Hon. Amarasiri Dodangoda, MP
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice and Law Reforms
Superior Courts Complex,
Colombo 12
Tel: 94-11-2384837, 2324681, 2392932
Fax: 94-11-2325354, 2445446

4. Hon. Rohitha Bogollagama, MP
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Mnistry of Foreign Affairs
Republic Building, Colombo 01,
Sri Lanka
Tel: +94-11-2325371 / 5
Fax: +94-11-2446091
Email: publicity@formin.gov.lk

5. Secretary
Human Rights Commission
No. 36, Kynsey Road
Colombo 8
SRI LANKA
Tel: +94 11 2 694 925 / 673 806
Fax: +94 11 2 694 924 / 696 470
E-mail: sechrc@sltnet.lk
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SAMPLE LETTER 3 (to relevant Embassies and other authorities):

Dear __________,

SAUDI ARABIA/SRI LANKA: Death sentence to young girl requires urgent intervention by the Sri Lankan government

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding a young Sri Lankan migrant worker, Nafeek Rizana, who was sentenced to the death in Saudi Arabia for allegedly committing infanticide. At the time of the said crime, Rizana was only a child in the eyes of the United Nations. The deadline for her appeal is imminent, 30 June 2007, but she cannot afford legal aid and the Sri Lanka government has yet to provide necessary legal assistance.

I am informed that Nafeek Rizana of Muttur, was charged with strangling the 4-month-old child of the family for whom she worked as a housemaid. At the time of the alleged crime, she was 17 years old, only a minor, according to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Nevertheless, she has been sentenced to a beheading by the Daw Admi High Courts in Saudi Arabia on 30 May 2007. She was legally allowed only 30 days from the court decision date to appeal her case however it is reported that she is unable to appeal to the court due to lack of fund.

The Sri Lankan Embassy has pointed out that she once plead guilty; however, in a latter statement she said that the employer had harassed her to make a confession and therefore, her forced confession may not be valid. Moreover, it was apparently the employer who had demanded that she receive the death sentence. Given these circumstances, there seems to be reasonable grounds for appeal. The Sri Lankan Embassy has made an appeal to the Sri Lankan Foreign Employment Bureau for funding the appellate case, but the funding has not come and the deadline fast approaches.

Most emphatically, I plead with you to hastily request the King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia to pardon the death sentence of Rizana Nasik, especially given that she committed the alleged crime when she was only a child. As you well know, the death penalty cannot be reconciled with today’s international human rights standards. The statement also calls for a “moratorium” on the use of the death penalty.

I ask you to intervene in a swift and sincere manner on the behalf of young Rizana. Please pressure the Sri Lankan President and relevant authorities to intercede for their fellow citizen. Moreover, please request King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia to exercise mercy and grant clemency to Rizana Nasik.

Yours sincerely,


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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Ban Ki-moon
Secretary-General
United Nations Room S-3800
New York NY 10017
U.S.A.
Fax: +1 212 963 4879/2155

2. Ms. Louise Arbour
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
1211 Geneva 10,
Switzerland
Fax: +41 22 917 9012 / 0213

3. United Kingdom Embassy
PO Box 94351
Riyadh 11693
SAUDI ARABIA
Tel: +966 1 488 0077
Fax: +966 1 488 2373

4. United States Embassy
PO Box 94309
Riyadh 11693
SAUDI ARABIA
Tel: +966 1 488 3800
Fax: +966 1 488 7360

5. Japan Embassy
P.O. Box 4095
Riyadh 11491
SAUDI ARABIA
Tel: +966 1 488 1100
Fax: +966 1 488 0189

6. Korean Embassy
PO Box 94399
Riyadh 11693
SAUDI ARABIA
Tel: +966 1 488 2211
Fax: +966 1 488 1317

7. France Embassy
PO Box 94367
Riyadh 11693
SAUDI ARABIA
Tel: +966 1 488 1255
Fax: +966 1 488 2882

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrchk.org)

Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID :
UA-207-2007
Countries :
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Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries.  Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings.  Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. 

Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere.  People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. 

Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person.  And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm.

There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances.  Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly.  In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate.  Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle.

In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates.  For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.

Changing society

In the past bridging this gap was a formidable task; it relied on channels of public expression that required money and were therefore controlled by investors.  Printing presses were expensive, which blocked the gate to expression to anyone without money.  Except in times of revolution the media in Asia has tended to serve the well-off and sideline or misrepresent the poor.

Still, thanks to the IT revolution it is now possible to communicate with large audiences at little cost.  In this situation there is a real avenue for taking issues from private to public, regardless of the class or caste of the individual.

Practical action

The AHRC Urgent Appeals system was created to give a voice to those affected by human rights violations, and by doing so, to create a network of support and open avenues for action.  If X’s freedom of expression is denied, if Y is tortured by someone in power or if Z finds his or her labour rights abused, the incident can be swiftly and effectively broadcast and dealt with. The resulting solidarity can lead to action, resolution and change. And as more people understand their rights and follow suit, as the human rights consciousness grows, change happens faster. The Internet has become one of the human rights community’s most powerful tools.   

At the core of the Urgent Appeals Program is the recording of human rights violations at a grass roots level with objectivity, sympathy and competence. Our information is firstly gathered on the ground, close to the victim of the violation, and is then broadcast by a team of advocates, who can apply decades of experience in the field and a working knowledge of the international human rights arena. The flow of information – due to domestic restrictions – often goes from the source and out to the international community via our program, which then builds a pressure for action that steadily makes its way back to the source through his or her own government.   However these cases in bulk create a narrative – and this is most important aspect of our program. As noted by Sri Lankan human rights lawyer and director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando:

"The urgent appeal introduces narrative as the driving force for social change. This idea was well expressed in the film Amistad, regarding the issue of slavery. The old man in the film, former president and lawyer, states that to resolve this historical problem it is very essential to know the narrative of the people. It was on this basis that a court case is conducted later. The AHRC establishes the narrative of human rights violations through the urgent appeals. If the narrative is right, the organisation will be doing all right."

Patterns start to emerge as violations are documented across the continent, allowing us to take a more authoritative, systemic response, and to pinpoint the systems within each country that are breaking down. This way we are able to discover and explain why and how violations take place, and how they can most effectively be addressed. On this path, larger audiences have opened up to us and become involved: international NGOs and think tanks, national human rights commissions and United Nations bodies.  The program and its coordinators have become a well-used tool for the international media and for human rights education programs. All this helps pave the way for radical reforms to improve, protect and to promote human rights in the region.