Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry under Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdul Aziz has issued instructions for Rizana Nafeek’s execution, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said today.
HRW however said that under the system of qisas (retaliation) that governs murder cases in Saudi Arabia, the baby’s parents may still grant Nafeek a pardon or seek blood money in compensation.
“The Saudi king and interior minister should immediately cancel the execution orders against Rizana Nafeek,” said Nisha Varia, senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Saudi officials should then meet with the baby’s family and Sri Lankan authorities to make sure the death penalty won’t be considered again.”
President Mahinda Rajapaksa sent an appeal to King Abdullah on January 6, 2013, requesting a stay of the execution until a settlement can be reached between the baby’s family and a Saudi reconciliation committee.
Nafeek had been working in Saudi Arabia for two weeks in 2005 when the ‘Utaibi family’s 4-month-old baby died in her care. Nafeek retracted a confession that she said was made under duress, and says that the baby died in a choking accident while drinking from a bottle. Authorities have incarcerated Nafeek in Dawadmi prison since 2005.
Past Human Rights Watch interviews with Sri Lankan embassy officials and reporting from Arab News found serious problems with Nafeek’s access to lawyers and competent interpreters during her interrogation and trial. Nafeek had no access to legal counsel until after a court in Dawadmi sentenced her to death by beheading in 2007.
Meanwhile Amnesty International said that after exhausting all of her appeals, Rizana Nafeek is at imminent risk of execution in Saudi Arabia for a crime she allegedly committed while under the age of 18.
Amnesty International urged the Saudi King to commute her death sentence, particularly given Saudi Arabia’s obligations as a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and taking into account the uncertainty over Rizana Nafeek’s age. (Colombo Gazette)