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Famly-outside-homeRizana Nafeek's family at their home in Sri Lanka

Execution of Rizana Nafeek in Saudi Arabia

Safe World Statement. January 2013.

For over two years we had been working to save Rizana, in the firm belief that justice would be done.

But justice was not done.

In 2005, a teenage girl left her home and impoverished family in Sri Lanka. to find work - but, eight years later, she was murdered by the government of the country she went to.

Her execution was a betrayal of any UN conventions:

  • Rizana Nafeek was 17 at the time of the alleged offence. Her execution was illegal under international law because she was a juvenile.
  • Rizana's trial was a miscarriage of justice. There was a possible forced confession and no autopsy of the victim to determine cause of death.
  • As a young immigrant worker, Rizana was herself a victim. Those responsible for arranging her employment have been imprisoned following an investigation into human trafficking.

We utterly condemn the Saudi Arabian government for this action and at the same time offer our deepfelt condolences to the family of Rizana Nafeek on the loss of their daughter

There must be no more Rizana Nafeeks - her death must not be in vain.


Rizana's Story

Rizana Nafeek was born on the 4th Feb 1988, to a poor Muslim family living in a war-torn, impoverished village in Sri Lanka.

When Rizana was 17, she went to seek work with an employment agency in Saudi Arabia.

She had no experience in child care. However, she was given charge of the family's new-born baby. The baby tragically choked to death when Rizana was bottle-feeding her.

On June 16th 2007, Rizana Nafeek was sentenced to death, following a 'confession' from Rizana.

According to Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), Rizana is said to have had no access to lawyers during her pre-trial interrogation or during the trial. The 'translator' appears to have had no credentials for translating between Tamil and Arabic

The sentence was questioned by the AHRC, the Sri Lankan government and others. The sentence of execution was put on hold and a further investigation was ordered by the Saudi Supreme Court.

However, by September 2010 it was rumoured that the death sentence had been reinstated and that execution was imminent.

On the 26th October 2010, the Arab News Agency reported that the court in Dawi Dami had confirmed Rizana's death sentence.

The miscarriage of justice was widely acknowledged by organisations such as Asian Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Rizana's case was relatively high profile, with coverage by the international media.

In June 2011, the Sri Lankan Embassy provided a lawyer and also an interpreter. Rizana retracted her confession and explained to the lawyer that she had been forced to confess under duress, following a physical assault.

The campaign to save Rizana was supported by the global community, with the Safe World for Women petition receiving over 4,000 signatures. Letters from throughout the world were written to the King of Saudi Arabia to appeal for Rizana, and many messages pleading to the King were also posted on the Safe World website.

Read: Rizana Nafeek - From Sri Lankan Village to Saudi Death Cell

Saudi Arabia defies international protests with beheading of Sri Lankan maid


Amnesty International.: "The use of the death penalty for crimes committed by people younger than 18 is prohibited under international human rights law.'"

Asian Human Rights Commission: "The law relating to forced confession in Saudi Arabia is criminally wrong.... There is no doubt that the charge of murder against Rizana is wrong. The laws in Saudi Arabia falls short of universally accepted norms concerning investigation of crimes, most importantly in this case the failure to conduct of an autopsy upon the body of the deceased person, alleged to have been murdered by Rizana. None of the fair trial guarantees were observed when Rizana was tried in the Saudi court."

Amantha Perera / Colombo (Time Magazine). 'In 2009, there were 4,500 complaints lodged by maids working in Saudi Arabia to Colombo's Foreign Employment Bureau. Most complaints were about a lack of communication, sexual harassment or no payment of wages, but some were much worse.'

Sri Lanka raises minimum age for women seeking work abroad:  In 2009, Sri Lankan migrant workers remitted a record $4.1 billion home in 2010, up from $3.3 billion in 2009, according to government figures.

In January 2011, the Sri Lankan government raised the minimum agefor women seeking employment abroad from 18 years to 21 to prevent exploitation of young female migrant workers.

Saudi woman jailed for 'maid abuse': In January 2011, a Saudi court sentenced a woman to three years in prison for stabbing, beating and burning her Indonesian housemaid.

Signed statement from Rizana sheds new light on her case - June 2011

Agents Jailed for Sending Underage Housemaid to Saudi, Where She is Now on Death Row: In January 2012, it was reported that the agents responsible for sending Rizana to Saudi Arabia were sentenced to prison in Sri Lanka for forging documents relating to her age, following investigations by the Human Trafficking Unit.