Saudi Arabia/Sri Lanka: Who will take responsibility for Rizana Nafeek?

WLUML networkers

(Translation from the Arabic original)We have the right as human beings to ask about the souls of other humans that are being wasted unjustly. And it is our right to in a State of law and order to ask about the rights of these souls. Follows to that the souls of all human beings, whether they belong to us or to other nations since we belong to the religion of justice, and since we worship a God who prohibited injustice on himself. I bring today the following facts about a death of a 4 months old infant. He lost his right to live due to the fact that those who were in entrusted to keep him safe and healthy did not carry their trust as should. Instead, they gave the responsibility to a young girl or in other words, a minor.  

This housemaid was only 17 years and her experience or training in that field of childcare was not certain. Though her age was appearing as 23 years in the relevant documents, her actual age is only 17 years. In two weeks of arriving in Dawadmi (a remote Saudi town in central Arabia), from Sri Lanka (May 2005) and assuming her duties as housemaid, Rizana Nafeek   was given the responsibility of looking after the said infant alone without supervision. However, we are not sure whether she was given any training in that field within that short period of 2 weeks, and if so, in what language.

In consequence, the infant suddenly one day choked, and the housemaid was not aware as to what action of remedy to be taken she called for help, but unfortunately, the infant had passed away before its mother arrived at the scene. What is known about the case afterwards was that the family reported on the maid accusing her of murdering and suffocating their infant. Then in the absence of a translator, she signed a confession  admitting the charge. Consequently, she was arrested and jailed in 2005 pending the Court’s Judgment, until last week, when the High Court has endorsed a death sentence as per news appeared in the ‘Arab News’ newspaper in 25th Oct 2010.

Appeals, since then, were made by the Human Rights Organizations and Sri Lankan Representatives requesting His Majesty the King of Saudi Arabia to pardon her or to reconsider the matter,  and to revise her sentence in the light of evidence that was not previously considered.

As the citizens of this country, we ask if not the decision on her life was taken in a hurry? And whether there were not some responsible parties that were not accused along with her. Or why partial Judgment has been taken against her. I also understand that a delegation headed by the Hon Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in Sri Lanka appealed to the parties concerned in K.S.A. requesting  that this matter be taken up in the Appeal Court, in 2007, and that, this also had failed. The family asked a Saudi lawyer to defend the maid. 

The following doubts arise as a result of this case that I wish the court will be kind to listen to:

  • What is the Judgment for the parents of the infant who also should be held responsible for this incident as negligents ?
  • How  do non-Arab workers in the country communicate in court? In what language?  Human rights groups are objecting to the method and are blaming the Saudis for not providing the right translators to translate her defense against the accusations.
  • What is the Judgment for the Proprietor of the Recruiting Agency who arranged her employment preparing false documents about the age?
  • Nevertheless there is an equal responsibility held againt  the parents of the housemaid   for the preparation of false documents about her age?
  • In consideration of above questions, how could this housemaid is given such a severe Judgment?
  • Why could not the Court consider imposing a fine as this incident had taken place due to ignorance and without intention?

We should also find out the background of the circumstances as to how this young girl of 17 years came to be employed as housemaid in the K.S.A.

She has come from Mutur in East Sri Lanka, where majority are Tamil people. She belongs to the Muslim minority which were caught in the midst of the Tamil’s civil war against the state. She comes from a family who has suffered for over 3 decades due to terrorism. Although the Muslims had no connection with the Terrorists in that place, nearly 35,000 Muslims were forced out from their homes by the Terrorists. Several thousands of Muslims were also killed by them mercilessly. They also prohibited the Muslims from engaging in Fishing, Cultivation and Fire-wood cutting. As a result, the Muslims faced very serious financial problems, without any help or assistance from the Government. This housemaid, Rizana Nafeek, is one of those who left for K.S.A. for employment due to the need for a breadwinner.

We kindly appeal to the juridical Authorities concerned to reconsider this matter sympathetically and give redress to this young poor girl.

We will have to face consequences if we do not reconsider this matter and do justice.

We also earnestly appeal that all those who are responsible in this matter should be inquired.

May Allah bless the infant, and give strength to its parents to be patient.

Finally, what is the stand or end of our personal responsibility towards the foreign labor, with whom we share our life, for good or for worse? 

Dr. Hatoon Ajwad AL FASSI (Ph.D)

Assistant Professor

Women’s History

History Dept.

King Saud University