Save Rizana Nafeek

Rizana Nafeek, a 22-year-old Sri Lankan domestic worker, has had her death sentence upheld by the Supreme Court in Saudi Arabia for a crime she allegedly committed while under the age of 18. If the death sentence is  ratified by the King, she would be at imminent risk of execution.
Rizana Nafeek was arrested in May 2005 on charges of murdering an infant in her care. She was 17 years old at the time. On 16 June 2007, she was sentenced to death by a court in Dawadmi, a town west of the capital Riyadh. The sentence was subsequently upheld by the Court of Cassation and sent for ratification by the Supreme Judicial Council. However, the Council sent it back to the lower court for further clarification. The case then went back and forth between the courts until on or around 25 October 2010, when the Supreme Court in Riyadh upheld the death sentence. The case was then sent to the King for ratification of the death sentence; if the King does ratify the death sentence, Rizana Nafeek will be at imminent risk of execution by beheading.

Rizana Nafeek had no access to lawyers either during her pre-trial interrogation or at her first trial. She initially“confessed” to the murder during interrogation but has since retracted her confession, which she says she was forced to make under duress following a physical assault. The man who translated Rizana’s statement was not an officially recognized translator and it appears that he may not have been able adequately to translate between Tamil and Arabic. He has since left Saudi Arabia. Rizana Nafeek arrived in Saudi Arabia in May 2005 to work as a housemaid. She was sent by her parents after the family lost all possessions and became refugees due the Tsunami in 2004.

She went to work at the house of Mr. Naif Jiziyan Khalaf Al Otaibi whose wife had a new-born baby boy. A short time after she started working for this family she was assigned to bottle feed the infant who was by then four months old. Rizana Nafeek had no experience of any sort in caring for such a young infant. She was left alone when bottle feeding the child.While she was feeding the child the boy started choking, as so often happens to babies and Rizana Nafeek panicked and while shouting for help tried to sooth the child by feeling the chest, neck and face, doing whatever she could to help him. At her shouting the mother arrived but by that time the baby was either unconscious or dead. Unfortunately, misunderstanding the situation the family members treated the teenager very harshly and handed her over to the police, accusing her of strangling the baby.

At the police station also, she was very harshly handled and did not have the help of a translator or anyone else to whom she could explain what had happened. After physical assault she was made to sign a confession and later charges were filed in court of murder by strangulation.

The passport she used to enter Saudi Arabia, issued by a Sri Lankan recruitment agency, gives her date of birth as February 1982 but according to her birth certificate she was born six years later, in February 1988. This would make her 17 years old at the time of the murder for which she has been convicted. According to several sources, she was not allowed to present her birth certificate or other evidence of her age to the court, which relied instead on her passport and so considered her to be 23 years old at the time of the crime. Saudi Arabia is a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which prohibits the execution of offenders for crimes committed when they were under 18 years old.

Letter sent by the father of Rizana Nafeek to Mr. Al Otaibi (MUST READ)

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