Saudi Arabia: UN experts outraged at beheading of a Sri Lankan domestic worker

GENEVA (11 January 2013) – United Nations Special Rapporteurs on summary executions, torture and migrants expressed outrage today at the beheading on 9 January of Rizana Nafeek, a Sri Lankan domestic worker charged with murder of a baby in her care in 2005 when she was reportedly 17 years old. According to the accused, the baby choked while being fed.

Ms. Nafeek was executed despite repeated calls by the international community, expressing concern at her age, the fairness of the trial, and the intended form of execution, which are in violation of international treaties to which Saudi Arabia is a State party.

“International law, accepted as binding by Saudi Arabia, is clear that it is unlawful to execute someone who was under 18 years old when they allegedly committed a crime,” said the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns. “Moreoever, beheading is a particularly cruel form of execution.”

“It appears that Ms. Nafeek did not have adequate access to lawyers and competent interpreters during her interrogation or trial,” noted François Crépeau, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants. “Given the large number of women migrant domestic workers in Saudi Arabia it is of paramount importance that transparent laws are put in place to ensure that all procedural rights and guarantees are afforded to all persons in Saudi Arabia, no matter their migration status or nationality.”

The Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan Méndez, noted that during the appeal of the case before the High Court in Riyadh, the defence submitted that Ms. Nafeek was beaten and made to sign a confession under duress. “Her execution is clearly contrary to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture,” he underscored.

The Special Rapporteurs on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions sent two urgent appeals to the Government on the case on 28 June 2007 and 1 November 2010.

The Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa sent an appeal to King Abdullah on 6 January 2013, requesting a stay of the execution until a settlement could be reached between the baby’s family and a Saudi reconciliation committee. Appeals were also repeatedly made by the parents of Ms. Nafeek to King Abdullah to pardon her.

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