Young woman at risk of execution
Rizana Nafeek, a 22-year-old Sri Lankan domestic worker, has had her death sentence upheld by the Supreme Court in Saudi Arabia for a crime she allegedly committed while under the age of 18. If the death sentence is ratified by the King, she would be at imminent risk of execution.
Rizana Nafeek was arrested in May 2005 on charges of murdering an infant in her care. She was 17 years old at the time. On 16 June 2007, she was sentenced to death by a court in Dawadmi, a town west of the capital Riyadh. The sentence was subsequently upheld by the Court of Cassation and sent for ratification by the Supreme Judicial Council. However, the Council sent it back to the lower court for further clarification. The case then went back and forth between the courts until on or around 25 October 2010, when the Supreme Court in Riyadh upheld the death sentence. The case was then sent to the King for ratification of the death sentence; if the King does ratify the death sentence, Rizana Nafeek will be at imminent risk of execution by beheading.
Rizana Nafeek had no access to lawyers either during her pre-trial interrogation or at her first trial. She initially “confessed” to the murder during interrogation but has since retracted her confession, which she says she was forced to make under duress following a physical assault. The man who translated Rizana’s statement was not an officially recognized translator and it appears that he may not have been able adequately to translate between Tamil and Arabic. He has since left Saudi Arabia.
Rizana Nafeek arrived in Saudi Arabia in May 2005 to work as a housemaid. The passport she used to enter Saudi Arabia gives her date of birth as February 1982 but according to her birth certificate she was born six years later, in February 1988. This would make her 17 years old at the time of the murder for which she has been convicted. According to Amnesty International’s information, she was not allowed to present her birth certificate or other evidence of her age to the court, which relied instead on her passport and so considered her to be 23 years old at the time of the crime. Saudi Arabia is a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which prohibits the execution of offenders for crimes committed when they were under 18 years old.
PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in Arabic, English or your own language:
Urging the King to prevent the execution of Rizana Nafeek who is believed to have been under 18 at the time of the crime for which she has been convicted;
Calling on the King to commute this death sentence, particularly given Saudi Arabia’s obligations as a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and having regard to the uncertainty over Rizana Nafeek’s age;
Reminding the authorities that they should act in accordance with international law, particularly Article 37 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, and end the use of the death penalty against juvenile offenders.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 8 DECEMBER 2010 TO:
His Majesty King ‘Abdullah Bin ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Al-Saud
The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques
Office of His Majesty the King
Royal Court, Riyadh
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: (via Ministry of the Interior)
+966 1 403 1185 (please keep trying)
Salutation: Your Majesty
Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior
His Royal Highness Prince Naif bin ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Al-Saud, Ministry of the Interior, P.O. Box 2933, Airport Road
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 403 1185 (please keep trying)
Salutation: Your Royal Highness
And copies to:
President, Human Rights Commission
Bandar Mohammed ‘Abdullah al- Aiban
Human Rights Commission
P.O. Box 58889, King Fahad Road, Building No. 373, Riyadh 11515
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 461 2061
Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date. This is the second update of UA 175/07. Further information: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE23/026/2007 and http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE23/006/2008
YOUNG WOMAN AT RISK OF EXECUTION
Saudi Arabia is a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which expressly prohibits the execution of juvenile offenders – those convicted of crimes committed when they were under 18. However, Saudi Arabia does execute juvenile offenders in breach of their obligations under the CRC.
At least 158 people, including 76 foreign nationals, were executed by the Saudi Arabian authorities in 2007, and at least 102 people, including almost 40 foreign nationals, were executed in 2008. In 2009, at least 69 people are known to have been executed, including 19 foreign nationals. Since the beginning of 2010, at least 21 people have been executed, including 5 foreign nationals.
Saudi Arabia applies the death penalty for a wide range of offences. Court proceedings fall far short of international standards for fair trial. Defendants are rarely allowed formal representation by a lawyer, and in many cases are not informed of the progress of legal proceedings against them. They may be convicted solely on the basis of confessions obtained under duress or deception.
Saudi Arabia is a state party to the Convention against Torture, which prohibits the use of evidence extracted under torture or other ill-treatment. Article 15 states: "Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made."
In a report on the use of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, Amnesty International highlighted the extensive use of the death penalty as well as the disproportionately high number of executions of foreign nationals from developing countries. For further information please see Saudi Arabia: Affront to Justice: Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia (MDE 23/027/2008), 14 October 2008:
The Supreme Court began to function in February 2009 as the final court of appeal. This is part of a new court system introduced by the 2007 Law of the Judiciary. The Court of Cassation, which used to handle appeals, has since been replaced by courts of appeal. The Supreme Judicial Council continues to exist and has been allocated responsibilities such as the supervision of the organization of the Judiciary, including the appointment, promotion and disciplining of judges. For more information regarding the judicial reforms, please see Saudi Arabia: Affront to Justice:
Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia (Index: MDE 23/027/2008), 14 October 2008: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/report/saudi-arabia-executions-target-foreign-nationals-20081014