Saudi Arabia Executes Nanny from Sri Lanka ; Rights Groups Had Fought Sentence, Saying Woman Received Unfair Treatment

By Hauser, Christine | International Herald Tribune, January 11, 2013 | Go to article overview

Saudi Arabia Executes Nanny from Sri Lanka ; Rights Groups Had Fought Sentence, Saying Woman Received Unfair Treatment


Hauser, Christine, International Herald Tribune


Rights groups had urged the Saudi government to halt the execution, saying that the woman should have been treated as a minor in its judicial system and questioning whether her trial had been fair.

A Sri Lankan woman who had been employed as a domestic worker in Saudi Arabia has been beheaded by the Saudi authorities after having been accused of murdering an infant in her charge and then sentenced to death in a case that the Sri Lankan government and human rights groups said was flawed.

The Saudi Interior Ministry announced in a brief statement released by the official Saudi news agency that the woman, Rizana Nafeek, had been executed Wednesday. It said that she had strangled the infant because of differences between her and the baby's mother. She was detained and interrogated and was sentenced after trial, the ministry reported.

The Sri Lankan Ministry of External Affairs said Wednesday in a statement on its Web site that Ms. Nafeek had been beheaded. She had been on the job for only six weeks before the accusation was made against her in 2005.

The Sri Lankan president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, had made several appeals to the government to halt the execution. The country also sent ministers to the kingdom to make similar appeals and arranged for the woman's parents to visit their daughter in prison in 2008 and 2011, the Sri Lankan statement said.

"President Rajapaksa and the Government of Sri Lanka deplore the execution of Miss Rizana Nafeek despite all efforts at the highest level of the government and the outcry of the people locally and internationally over the death sentence of a juvenile housemaid," it said.

Ms. Nafeek's case has been shrouded in controversy. Human Rights Watch, which along with other rights organizations had urged the Saudi government to halt the execution, said that she should have been treated as a minor in the Saudi Arabian judicial system. It also questioned whether she had been given a fair trial.

Though she was arrested in 2005, she did not have access to legal counsel until after a court sentenced her to death in 2007. Ms. Nafeek also retracted a confession that she said had been made under duress and said that the baby had died in a choking accident while drinking from a bottle.

Human Rights Watch said that Ms. Nafeek's birth certificate showed that she had been 17 at the time of her arrest but that a recruitment agency in Sri Lanka had altered the birth date on her passport to present her as 23 so she could migrate for work. Her birth certificate states she was born in 1988, said Nisha Varia, senior women's rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, adding that she had a scanned image of the document.

The High Court in Colombo sentenced two recruitment agents to two years in prison for falsifying her travel documents, Ms. …

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