Appeal by AHRC on behalf of Rizana Nafeek

(January 31, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Asian Human Rights Commission has once again written to the Western Embassies in Saudi Arabia to request their intervention in the case of Rizana Nafeek. Following is the text of the letter:

Your Excellency,

You will remember the appeal by the Asian Human Rights Commission regarding the young Sri Lankan house maid facing the death sentence in Saudi Arabia. We wish to thank the several Ambassadors and Consul Generals who graciously responded to our appeal and made efforts to intervene with the Royal Government of Saudi Arabia. I am writing this to inform you that no successful response has yet been received from the Royal government and that Rizana Nafeek's life is still in danger. The Asian Human Commission again seeks your kind assistance to take this matter up again with the Royal Government and spare no effort to safe this innocent young girl's life.

This young girl comes from a war thorn village in the Eastern Sri Lanka who due to the destitute poverty of her family, was sent for work in Saudi Arabia when she was seventeen years old (17). Within month of Rizana's arrival, the four months old infant in her care choked ad she was bottle-feeding him. Due to her inexperience and young age, she failed to rescue the infant, who tragically died. This young girl only spoke her native Tamil language and she was unable to explain herself adequately in the first instance at the police station. Unfortunately, the tragedy was therefore believed to be a crime and she was charged with murder and sentenced to death in 2007. The death sentence was recently confirmed in after a highly criticisable process in court. Consequently, she is likely to be executed anytime soon unless she is pardoned by His Royal Highness King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia. The Hon. President of Sri Lanka has announced that he has appealed to His Royal Highness to pardon Rizana Nafeek.

We are also appealing to him to take the special circumstances of the case into consideration and intervene on behalf of this young girl to save her life.

Kindly see a brief summary of the case for further details on the sad story of this young girl.

Thank you

Sincerely Yours

Basil Fernando
Director, Policy and Programmes
Asian Human Rights Commission. Hong Kong

Summary of the case :

Coming from a poor and war-torn family Rizana Nafeek went to Saudi Arabia as a maid in May 2005. A recruitment agency in Sri Lanka altered her date of birth in her passport making her 23 years-of-age in order to employ her, when in fact she was only 17 at the time. When the infant of her employers died in her care, a confession of murder was drawn from Rizana under harsh treatment and without a proper translator at the police station. On this ground, she was charged with murder and sentenced to death by beheading in 2007. After getting access to a lawyer and being able to express the circumstances in Tamil, the confession was later retracted. According to Nafeek, the child suffocated while being bottle-fed and due to her lack of experience and young age, she was unable to save him. The case was appealed enabled by funds from human rights groups. However, after a highly questionable and arbitrary process in court, the death sentence was confirmed in late October 2010.

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