Spare the life of Rizana Nafeek sign now

A joint appeal to His Majesty King Abdullah Ibn `Abd al-Aziz al-Saud and the Saudi Arabian Government by a coalition of Sri Lankan civil society organisations

Re: Miss Rizana Nafeek, a teenage Sri Lankan Muslim girl facing the death sentence in Saudi Arabia

We, the undersigned collectively appeal to His Majesty King Abdullah for a pardon of Rizana Nafeek who, on 16 June 2007, was sentenced to death by beheading by the Saudi Arabian High Court.

Rizana Nafeek, a domestic worker of Sri Lankan origin, was accused of strangling a four month old infant to death when she was only a 17 year old child. It is essential to understand that this was not a deliberate act, but a tragic accident which occurred due to Rizanas youth and inexperience, which was then terribly exacerbated by miscommunication due to lack of a translator at the police station and at court.

However we note with respect that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and is therefore bound under international law to protect Rizana despite the courts order.

Background Rizana was born on 4 February 1988 in Muttur, a war-torn and impoverished Muslim majority village in eastern Sri Lanka. She was still a schoolgirl when she was compelled by poverty to come to Saudi Arabia as a maid in May 2005. Though she was only 17 years old at that time, her passport, obtained by an irresponsible employment agent under false pretenses, gave her date of birth as 2 February 1982.

She was sent to work at the house of Mr. Naif Jiziyan Khklafal Otaibi whose wife had a new-born baby boy. Soon after she started working for this family she was assigned to bottle feed the baby who was then four months old she was left alone when doing this task. Rizana Naffeek had no experience of any sort in caring for such a young infant, as she was only a child herself.

Incident One day, while Rizana was feeding the child, he started choking. She panicked and, while shouting for help, tried to soothe the child by feeling his chest, neck and face, doing whatever she could to help him. Due to her shouting the mother came running, but by that time the baby was either unconscious or dead. The family handed Rizana over to the police, accusing her of strangling the baby. At the police station there was no translator so she did not understand the charges brought against her. Rizana was made to sign a confession and later charges were filed in court of murder by strangulation.

On her first appearance in court she was warned by the police to repeat her confession, which she did. However, when she was finally able to talk to an interpreter, sent by the Sri Lankan embassy, she explained in her own language what actually happened, as stated above. This version was also stated in court thereafter. According to reports, the judges who heard the case requested the father of the child to use his prerogative to pardon the young girl. However, the father refused to grant such pardon. On that basis the court sentenced her to death by beheading. This sentence was made on June 16, 2007.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabias obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

We respectfully remind His Majesty King Abdullah that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (the Convention) on 25 February 1996. Saudi Arabia has therefore willingly undertaken the solemn duty to uphold its provisions. Under Article 2(1), Saudi Arabia has sworn to protect all children within its jurisdiction irrespective of the child'snationalorigin in other words, without discrimination.

Critically, in regard to this case, we draw His Majestys attention to the fact that capital punishment of children is expressly forbidden under the Convention. Under Article 37(a), Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age. We note that Rizana was 17 at the time of the tragic accident and, as a child, falls within this prohibition.

As the history above makes clear, Rizanas treatment under Saudi Arabian law was in breach of Article 40(2)(b)(ii), (iv) and (vi), which state as follows:

(ii) To be informed promptly and directly of the charges against him or her, and, if appropriate, through his or her parents or legal guardians, and to have legal or other appropriate assistance in the preparation and presentation of his or her defence

(iv) Not to be compelled to give testimony or to confess guilt; to examine or have examined adverse witnesses and to obtain the participation and examination of witnesses on his or her behalf under conditions of equality

(vi) To have the free assistance of an interpreter if the child cannot understand or speak the language used

In violation of the above provisions, Rizana was not aware of the charges against her and was made to sign a confession she did not understand, which she was then forced to repeat in court. She was further not provided an interpreter until the intervention of the Sri Lankan embassy, though she faced capital punishment, and her understanding of the case amounted to a life or death matter.

Conclusion

We understand that there is a period of one month for the lodging of an appeal. Since the high court sentence of 16 June, no appeal has been lodged. Time is running out and the appeal procedure is a costly affair. Neither Rizanas family nor the Muttur community has the means to raise such an enormous amount of money to deploy lawyers in a foreign land. It is due to the terrible conflict-related poverty of Muttur and the Muttur Muslim community that many young inexperienced Muslim girls like Rizana have been sent to the Middle East to find employment.

We, the undersigned collectively place our trust in your Majesty to spare this teenage girls life. Your pardon will give not just Rizana and her immediate family, but also the impoverished and marginalized Muttur Muslim community, immeasurable relief in desperate times.

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Latest Signatures

  • 22 February 20161000. Kaza Castillo
    I support this petition
  • 19 February 2016999. Ruwanpura S
    I support this petition
  • 13 February 2016998. Rohiath Robertson
    don't kill Rizana
  • 12 February 2016997. Mowjood Washington
    I support this petition
  • 11 February 2016996. Sharon Pennington
    I support this petition
  • 10 February 2016995. Nisantha B
    This was an accident. The child choked on the formula (milk).
  • 06 February 2016994. Ip D
    i hate all arabs they can go to hell
  • 04 February 2016993. Don H
    I support this petition
  • 30 January 2016992. Mohamed A
    For the sake of Islam & humanity spare Rizana's life
  • 22 January 2016991. Janet O
    I support this petition
  • 21 January 2016990. Ravi P
    save the poor child
  • 20 January 2016989. Shama Stephens
    I support this petition
  • 12 January 2016988. Mmfazil Shaffer
    I support this petition
  • 12 January 2016987. Mrs Jc
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  • 01 January 2016986. Ashok Y
    I support this petition
  • 29 December 2015985. Thanushka T
    I support this petition
  • 27 December 2015984. Beatrice D
    I support this petition
  • 24 December 2015983. Hans C
    We lost my little brother when he was only a few weeks old. He has never taken a step or spoken a word in his life. I pray that the Otaibi Family can heal from their loss.
  • 22 December 2015982. S Mkm
    В
  • 21 December 2015981. Absajahan Hayes
    I support this petition
  • 20 December 2015980. Mohamed R
    I support this petition
  • 12 December 2015979. Chandana P
    I support this petition
  • 09 December 2015978. Pushpa M
    I support this petition
  • 09 December 2015977. Muazzam Iftiqarm
    plead for a pardon
  • 07 December 2015976. Janet K
    I support this petition
  • 05 December 2015975. Dhammika R
    I support this petition
  • 03 December 2015974. Raufdeen Dominguez
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