2012/11/15TUTE 01-(GROUP)INTERNATIONAL MIGRATION THE CAGED BIRD-- RIZANA NAFEEK WHO SENTENCED TO DEATH IN SAUDI ARABIA
2RIZANA NAFEEKWHO ARE SENTENRCED TO DEATH IN SAUDI ARABIAThe Rizana Nafeek case has been in the media since her arrest in May, 2005 – her story has raisednumerous questions on the safety of women traveling to the Middle East for employment.Moreover the right to fair trial for migrant workers who face criminal charges in countries wherethey have gone for employment remains an important human rights problem that merits theattention of the Human Rights Council. In this regard, particular importance needs to be given tothe migrant workers employed in Saudi. This issue is well-illustrated in the case of the a 17-year-old Sri Lankan girl , who went for employment in Saudi Arabia and who faced charges for murderwithin less than one month at the employers residence.Rizana Nafeeq (Passport No: N 0331835) was born to a poor and war-torn family in eastern SriLanka and went to Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on 4th May, 2005 to work as a housemaid in the household of her sponsor,Naif Jiziyan Khalaf Al Otaibi.Background InformationRizanas family lives in Safi Nagar in the Muttur district in the eastern province of Sri Lanka, 280 kilometers from Colombo. It isone of the extremely impoverished Muslim villages gravely marked by the 26-year-long civil war between the Sri LankanGovernment and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Throughout the war Safi Nagar was a border village between agovernment ruled side and a LTTE-controlled part. Rizanas father is a woodcutter and they found it difficult to earn their dailyliving and Nafeek,who is eldest among four children, consented to go to Middle East for employment to earn the family’s burden.Out of desperation the family contacted the Sri Lankan recruitment agency, who altered Rizanas date of birth in her passport,making her as 23 years old and sent to Saudi Arabia on 22 April 2005 as a housemaid, to work in the family of Mr & Mrs.NaifJizin Khalaf Al-Otaibi of Dawdami,Saudi Arabia.Summary of the case A few days after her arrival, Rizana Nafeek had been transferred by her sponsor to work in his family household in Dawadami,about 390 km west of Riyad. Her sponsor-Naif Jiziyan Khalaf Al Otaibi, whose wife had a new-born baby boy. Even thoughRizana Nafeek had no experience of any sort in caring for such a young infant, however Rizana Nafeek was given theresponsibility of looking after the said infant alone without supervision.The infant suddenly one day choked, and the housemaid was not aware as to what action of remedy to be taken she called forhelp, but unfortunately, the infant had passed away before its mother arrived at the scene. Afterwards was that the family reportedon the maid accusing her of murdering and suffocating their infant. However, on the basis of accusations of the family, On 25May 2005, she was arrested on the charge of murdering the four-month old infant son of her employers.Then in the absence of a translator, she signed a confession admitting the charge. On this ground, she was charged with murderand sentenced to death by beheading in 2007.Initially, on June 16, 2007, a three-member panel of judges from the Dawadami High Court headed by Chief Justice AbdullahAl-Rosaimi found Rizana Nafeek guilty of murder and sentenced her to death. The court informed Rizana that she could file anappeal against her death sentence, which she did. After getting access to a lawyer and being able to express the circumstances inTamil, the confession was later retracted .However, the Supreme Court of Saudi Arabia confirmed the death sentence on the 25September 2010.The issues of fair trial arising from this case are as follows:1) There was no evidence of any sort available to establish the murder of this infant. The accused young girl was never given anopportunity to look into any evidence which would establish murder of the child, since there was no such evidence in the firstplace. There was only an accusation made by the parents, who would naturally have been in a state of shock and anger at thedeath of their child. However, there was no forensic or any other evidence to establish any attack on the child leading to thedeath.2) At the time of the arrest and at the time of the first interrogation by the police, which was when a confession was extracted, thepolice talked in Arabic, the accused young girl knew only Tamil and there was no translation. This aspect of lack of translationwas later established at the appeal stage when the court summoned the interpreter to be brought to the court for examination. Noperson was brought to court as there was no such interpreter. It was reported that the person whose name had been entered asthe interpreter was, in fact, an Indian citizen from Karnataka state and his native language was not Tami but the language of theKarnataka people, Kannada.3) At the stage of the trial, the accused young girl did not have any legal representation.
34) Even at the stage of the trial, she was not given a proper interpretation and not even persons from the Sri Lankan consulatewere present at the trial.5) In any event, at the time of the alleged incident, she was 17 years old and this has been established at the appeal stage veryclearly.6) At the initial trial, she was sentenced to death solely on the basis of the confession which has been obtained under thecircumstances described above. Later, due to the representations made to the highest authorities in Saudi Arabia, the case wassent for reconsideration and the issue which was to be particularly clarified was the issue of the translation. On that issue, theevidence at the re-inquiry was that there was no interpreter and the person whose name that had been given as the interpreter wasa person who spoke Kannada, a language spoken in Karnataka state in India, and thus the fact of the absence of interpreter wasestablished. However, the court re-confirmed the death sentence solely on the basis of the confession, which is said to be bindingunder the Saudi Arabian law. The Article 3 of Human Rights framework of United Nation has been violated by through thisdecision.It is also the position of the accused young girl that the confessions as obtained by use of force. This is a violation of person’sright to freedom of expression according to Article 19 of Universal declaration of Human rights. As well as violation ofArticle 5- this stands for prohibition of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Moreover her torture as a childand a juvenile is against the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which had been ratified by the Saudi Arabiangovernment.Subsequent to the re-confirmation of the death sentence, His Excellency, the President of Sri Lanka, appealed to the His Majesty,the King of Saudi Arabia, pleading for the pardoning of the accused young girl. The case is now pending decision by His RoyalHighness the King.It is a well-established principle of international law that every accused is entitled to a fair trial. It is also a well-establishedprinciple that a confession cannot solely be the basis for a conviction for a serious charge, such as murder. Besides this, allaccused are entitled to legal representation, as well as proper interpretation at the stage of the trial. In any case, before a charge ofmurder is made, forensic evidence should be led to satisfy that a murder had in fact taken place. Besides all this, the young age ofthe accused, who was 17 years old at the time, is also an impediment to holding her guilty of such a serious charge. The issue ofguaranteeing a fair trial to the migrant workers should be seriously addressed by the Human Rights Council. This will requireserious amendments to the law in Saudi Arabia so that the rights guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil andPolitical Rights under Article 14 are ensured through proper legislation under the Saudi Arabian law. Under thesecircumstances, until such laws are amended, the immediate attention of Saudi Arabia should be drawn into this particular case,since the time available to save of the life of Rizana Nafeek, the accused in this case, is short.The question is not one of differences of legal systems in Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia. It is one of the rights of fair trial underwhatever system exists. Saudi Arabia always claimed that it is a part of the international community and it holds itselfresponsible for upholding human rights as enunciated by the basic documents of the United Nations beginning with the UniversalDeclaration of Human Rights (UNDHR).Moreover Rizana was only 17 years old when the incident happened, making her a child. As we know, Saudi Arabia is a memberof the United Nations convention of the Right of the Child; therefore Rizana cannot be sentenced to death according to Article37 of the convention.The Asian Human Rights Commission in its many appeals on the case has consistently maintained that no forensic enquiry wasever conducted into the death of the infant and there was no evidence at all to indicate any circumstances which would suggestany wrong doing on the part of Rizana Nafeek or to justify the charge of murder.It was unfortunate that Dawdami High Court and the Saudi SupremeCourt have overlooked the most important information – the causedeath – the absence of a postmortem report – the scientificevidence of the cause of death, before sentencing an innocent teenageMuslim Girl to death.This statement the affidavit published today reveals that the possiblecause of death could have been some illness suffered by the infant.According to the affidavit the infant Rizana noticed "milk was oozingthrough the mouth and nose of the infant." The Asian Tribune hasconsulted a medical expert who states that:"There could have been a Stop anywhere between the oral cavity and Esophagus, (Latin – oesophagus).( SwedishOesophagoes). When there is a Stop, the milk will not go into the stomach, but will ooze out. This might also be a symptom, thatit may be either due congenital or existence of a tumor. Therefore it can be also assumed that when the milk the housemaidbottle-fed oozed out, the child might have already passed away."
4See those images attached about the oral cavity, and the nasal cavity all joining the Esophagus and once there is a ‘Stop inEsophagus there is a tendency for the bottle-fed milk to ooze out through mouth and nose.The ReactionsEver since the initial verdict of the Dawdami High Court, the Asian Human Rights Commission has maintained that she isinnocent of the charges and that it was the duty of the Sri Lankan government to do all it can to save her life. On an earlieroccasion, the AHRC wrote an open letter to President Rajapaksa on this issue. As the government refused to assist her to file herappeal, the failure of which would have led to her death 30 days after the verdict, the AHRC took the initiative to collect thelawyers fee for filing her appeal (USD $40,000) and had it filed in time. Legal experts in the Kingdom say Nafeek can only besaved if pardoned by the victim’s family. A ‘ Reconciliation Committee ’was brought in to persuade the father to pardon Rizanaand Such negotiations are either settled with the payment of blood money or a graceful pardon from the aggrieved parties but herefused to grant such pardon.Appeals, since then, were made by the Human Rights Organizations and Sri Lankan Representatives requesting His Majesty theKing of Saudi Arabia to pardon her or to reconsider the matter, and to revise her sentence in the light of evidence that was notpreviously considered. The Asian Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch among other human rights groups and civilsociety organisations have followed the case closely and worked intensively to put continuous pressure on The Saudi King andThe Minister of Interior in Saudi Arabia to grant Rizana clemency as well as requesting President Rajapakse to appeal to KingAbdullah and request a diplomatic dialogue on the case.While the eyes of the world currently are on King Abdullah and President Rajapakse, this should also be used to address theunderlying causes to this disastrous situation and how the young girl from a rural, poor family ended up there in the first place. InSri Lanka there is an urgent need to address the growing problem of illegal operations by the recruitment agencies to sendworkers overseas. As Sri Lankas biggest source to foreign currency is remittance from workers overseas, the Sri Lankangovernment has been slow and reluctant to put pressure on the Saudi King before the international and national attention forced itto intervene. The Sri Lankan Embassy in Saudi Arabia has made statements from time to time stated that the embassy was closelyfollowing the case and was providing support to the young girl who was in prison. However, later it was almost impossible to getanyone to answer questions about the case from the Sri Lankan Embassy. Just yesterday, when the Embassy was contacted by aninternational press agency an Embassy spokesman stated that the case was still pending for consideration of pardon by the family.However, on the same day the Arab News announced that the court in Dawdami has confirmed the death sentence. The report byArab News did not give any further details.It is unfortunate, we have conveniently forgotten her. She continues to languish in the Dawdami High Security Prisons since 25May 2005. Unfortunately we have not done anything to secure her release. She is still in the same Dawdami Prison, without anylight at the end of the tunnel. When asked about the condition of Rizana Nafeek, Dr. Kifaya Ifthikar, a Sri Lankan dentalsurgeon working in Riyadh and who visits regularly to the Dawdami Prison to meet Rizana Nafeek. when she last time(first weekof April 2012) went to the Dawdami Prison to meet Rizana Nafeek,asked about the condition of Rizana Nafeek, Dr. KifayaIfthikar said that she is ‘OK. She is keeping well without any problems. She used to cry for some time whenever she sees me.She also said that whenever she visits the prisons, she makes arrangements for Rizana Nafeek to speak by phone to her parents inMuthur, Sri Lanka."She does not know that her appeal in the Supreme Court was rejected. She does not know that the Supreme Court has confirmedher death penalty. She even does not know that she awaits the consequences of beheading, one day or other, in case we failed tosecure her release. The poor soul, she is hoping that one day she will be released. She is always happy whenever I visit her andshe is of the opinion that something good is happening to her."Rizana Nafeek case is not the first and will not be the last. As we know, Sri Lankan women working abroad play a vital role inthe Sri Lankan economy. In 2009,over 77,000 Sri Lankan women went Middle East as domestic workers and some 42,000 wentto Saudi Arabia ,according to Sri Lankan governments statistics. Many of these fall within the low-skilled and housemaidcategories. In 2009, there were 4,500 complaints lodged by maids working in Saudi Arabia to Colombo’s foreign employmentBureau. Most complaint were about a lack of communication, sexual harassment or no payment of wages, but some were muchworse.
5The inability to communicate appears to be a big factor in Nafeek’s case as well. Her family says she does not speak Arabic, andthey are unsure whether she received any training before her departure. She could not understand the court proceedings. So,Language was one of the major cause of her trouble.Furthermore,Saudi Arabia has the highest execution rate of women compared to all other countries participating capitalpunishment.40 women have been put to death in Saudi Arabia since 1990, 22 of them were foreign workers just like Rizana.As the past has shown, there is absolutely no reason to believe Rizana will be an exception if there not immediate pressure is puton king Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to grant her clemency. But this time around, the western media who always shout out aboutHuman Rights and equality for every human beings, keep silent as they seem dose not awakned by Rizana’s death sentence.She arrived as a vulnerable child seeking a better future for herself and her family. As Nafeeks family waits in fear for any news,leniency for their daughter has replaced the wish for a better life. "We dont want anything," says her mother, fighting back tears."We just want her back."What the world is witnessing in the case of Rizana Nafeek is a blatant case of the abuse of a criminalconviction without guaranteeing basic rights to a human being??? That is a question..It is a pity the poor Rizana Nafeek is still languishing in the prison and so far no arrangements are made to secure her freedom. Iam thinking of Rizana. Shes died many deaths already. Punished enough. Taking her eye for the eye shes said to have takendoesnt give sight to anyone. It blinds us all, those of us who execute, who cheer, who object, protest, plead and remain silent. Wedont end up richer.Let us all pray for her release.The Caged bird—Rizana Nafeek’s still hangs in balance…Her only swear is; “In the name of Allah, I swear and aver that I never strangled the infant baby.”Saudi Arabias law is based on Sharia, the Islamic Law, which holds certain restrictions. As the Supreme Court of Saudi Arabia recentlyconfirmed her death sentence, the options of judicial remedies have beenexhausted. The decision can only be challenged if new evidence comesto light, if King Abdullah, who alsoserves as Prime Minister, grants her a pardon or the parents of the deceased infant withdraw their claim ofmurder or settle for blood money.
6REFFERENCE The Island (November 13, 2010), Saudi Arabia might execute Rizana without warning in the very near future, warns AHRC Accessed on-12/11/2012 Available on- http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=11179 Sunday Observer (Sunday, 27 March 2011) ,Rizana Nafeeks fate still in the balance Accessed on-11/11/2012 Available on- http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2011/03/27/new22.asp An article from the MUSLIMGUARDIAN forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission ,Rizana Nafeek sentenced to death without a postmortem report June 30, 2011. Forwarded Article; Document ID: AHRC-FAT-032-2011 An article from the Daily Mail forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission SAUDI ARABIA/SRI LANKA: Medieval murder in modern times: Woman faces death by beheading in Saudi Arabia for crime she committed as a child Sri Lanka Mirror( May 10, 2012), EU to monitor Rizanas case Accessed on-13/11/2012 Available on- http://english.srilankamirror.com/2012/05/eu-to-monitor-rizanas-case/ An article by Rizana Nafeek Foundation, SAVE RIZANA NAFEEK Accessed on-14/11/2012 Available on- http://www.rizananafeek.com/index.html An appeal to save the life of the young girl facing death sentence in Saudi Arabia (November 6, 2010) Forwarded Article; Document ID: AHRC-FAT-059-2010 Sunday Observer (Sunday, 27 March 2011) Rizana Nafeeks fate still in the balance Accessed on-11/11/2012 Available on- http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2011/03/27/new22.asp Sunday Times by Nalaka Nois ( Sunday November 11, 2007) Rizanas fate still in the balance Accessed on-11/11/2012 Available on- http://sundaytimes.lk/071111/News/news00023.html By K.T.Rajasingham Riyadh-17 June, Asiantribune.com, (Thu, 2011-06-16) Rizana Nafeek Sentence to Death Without a Postmortem Report Accessed on-14/11/2012 Available on- http://www.asiantribune.com/news/2011/06/16/rizana-nafeek-sentence-death-without-postmortemreport Asian Tribune,By Walter Jayawardhana, (Tue, 2007-07-10) ,Minor Sri Lankan Muslim Girl was sentenced to death by three Saudi judges on a confession under duress Available on-http://www.asiantribune.com/node/6463 Accessed on-13/11/2012