An Open Letter to the President of Sri Lanka on the fate of Rizana Nafeek

Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa
President
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Presidential Secretariat
Colombo-01
SRI LANKA


Tel: + 94 11 2447400
Fax: + +94 11 2423494
E-mail: secretary@presidentsoffice.lk


Your Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa:

SRI LANKA: A Christmas appeal to President Rajapaksa to save Rizana Nafeek

(December 24, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka Guardian) I am writing on behalf of the Asian Human Rights Commission once again on the young Sri Lankan Muslim girl facing the threat of beheading in Saudi Arabia on this occasion of the celebration of Christmas. On such a day you will agree that it is the obligation of any conscientious person to think of the situation of this unfortunate young girl who has been in a prison with the threat of execution for over five years now.

You have yourself written to His Royal Highness the King of Saudi Arabia for seeking pardon on her behalf. Previously come years ago one of your ministers visited Saudi Arabia to discuss with the family of the deceased child about the possibility of pardoning Rizana Nafeek. At this stage the minister was reported in the media as saying that he had a friendly meeting with the elders of the tribe and that the matter would be discussed further when the case which was pending at that time before the court was finalised. Now as you know the appeals court has confirmed the death sentence despite of noting many circumstances in favour of the girl's release such as the discovery that she did not have an interpreter who understood Tamil at the time she was asked to sign her confession. The reconfirmation of the death sentence is based entirely on this confession which unlike in the law of Sri Lanka is considered admissible and valid in Saudi Arabian law.

Recently one of you ministers announced that her death sentence had been suspended which, in fact, was not accurate reporting on the situation. In fact, her files have only recently been sent to the office of the King who has now the power to confirm the verdict in which case it would be executed imminently or to pardon her. His Royal Highness has been ill and been taking treatment in the United States. According to reports he has been released from hospital but has not returned home.

Rizana Nafeek's life is in danger as before and this is despite of the fact that it is now beyond controversy that she had had no part in causing the death of the infant who died accidentally. It is rather a pity that this case has dragged on for over five years now and even at this stage there is no real decisive attempt to save this young girl. You are quite aware that at the initial stages of the trail itself she could have been saved if there was proper legal assistance to her from the Sri Lankan embassy. It was unfortunate that even after the death sentence was passed the embassy took no action on her behalf and that it was due to a passing journalist that even the new of her plight came to the notice of the public. Even thereafter the Ministry of Foreign Affairs took no initiative to provide her with legal assistance to file an appeal within the 30 day period that was available for such a purpose. It was human rights organisations that found the funds for the filing of the appeal during that period and were able to save her life by the suspension of the death sentence pending the appeal.

What can be more or less sure is that if no decisive action is taken to save her this may be the last Christmas that Rizana Nafeek will see. Time is against her and what is required is the decisive action on the part of the Sri Lankan government both in the area of negotiations with the family of the deceased child as well as the pursuit of the pardon from His Royal Highness.

I hope that during this Christmas time the Sri Lankan people will be able to hear a decisive intervention on your part to save this young Sri Lankan girl. I hope you will intervene to save her life.

Thank you,

Yours sincerely,

Md. Ashrafuzaman
Programme Officer
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong

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