Saudi Arabian King takes initial steps on President’s appeal to grant clemency to Rizana

Wednesday, 17 November 2010 00:02 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia has taken the initial steps towards a reprieve for Rizana Nafeek, following a personal appeal made by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to the Saudi King to grant clemency to the convicted girl.

Rizana, who is currently on death row in Saudi Arabia convicted for strangling a baby in her care, was 17-years old at the time of the incident, and claims it was an accident in which the baby choked while being bottle-fed. The Supreme Court in Riyadh confirmed her death sentence last month.

The Sri Lankan External Affairs Ministry’s Consular Chief Somadasa Wijeysundera has said that King Abdullah has directed officials to meet the parents of the deceased infant for whom Rizana worked. He said that the King’s actions come as a response to the plea from Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa to grant the girl clemency, emphasising that discreet diplomatic efforts were underway to secure her release.

Wijeysundera further said that several other diplomatic efforts have been stepped up both in Riyadh and internationally to gather support for Rizana’s release, and Sri Lankan envoys in several countries both in the West and elsewhere were working closely with those respective countries towards this end. He said the response is encouraging but the process is slow because it needs a lot of diplomatic patience and understanding.

Saudi Arabia’s law is based on Sharia, the Islamic Law, which holds certain restrictions. As the Supreme Court of Saudi Arabia recently confirmed her death sentence, the options of judicial remedies have been exhausted. The decision can only be challenged if new evidence comes to light, if King Abdullah, who also serves as Prime Minister, grants her a pardon or the parents of the deceased infant withdraw their claim of murder or settle for blood money. The King’s initiative to let officials meet the family is therefore acknowledged as an important step in granting a reprieve to Rizana.


HRW condemns worker abuse in Mideast

Human Rights Watch has urged Jordan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to do more to protect domestic workers amid fresh allegations of employers there abusing their Sri Lankan maids.

Tuesday’s statement from the New York-based group comes after several Sri Lankan workers accused their Jordanian, Saudi and Kuwaiti employers of driving nails into their bodies or forcing them to swallow nails.

Human Rights Watch said the allegations indicate a “broader pattern of abuse.”

It urged governments to create a mechanism for domestic workers to report abuse as soon as it happens, rather than after returning to Sri Lanka.