Alert Update: Saudi Arabia – Trial continues for Sri Lankan girl on death penalty

Islamic Human Rights Commission

27 June 2008

Alert Update: Saudi Arabia – Trial continues for Sri Lankan girl on death penalty

1. Summary
2. Background
3. Action Required
4. Sample Letters

1. Summary

Sri Lankan girl, Rizana Nafeek, currently detained facing the death penalty in KSA for allegedly strangling her employer’s four-month-old infant, appeared before Dawadmi High Court for the fourth time on 9 June 2008. Her lawyer questioned the validity of the Arabic translation of Nafeek’s Tamil statements that she made either on the day of her arrest or later.

The Dawadmi court ruled that the Supreme Judicial Council will have to address the attorney’s objections. Thus Nafeek’s case still continues as it is referred yet again to the higher court for judgment.

2) Background

Twenty-year-old Rizana Nafeek, is currently detained in Dawadmi since her arrest on 22 May 2005 for allegedly strangling her employer’s four-month-old infant.

In her recent most session in court on 9 June 2008, Nafeek’s lawyer, Kateb Al-Shammary, argued that the initial statements made by Nafeek after her arrest are ‘vital’ to the case, hence it is necessary to determine whether the translation of these statements from Tamil (Nafeek’s mother tongue) to Arabic was done accurately. The lawyer demanded information about the ‘credentials, background and proficiency in Tamil’ of the individual who translated Nafeek’s statements.

On hearing the lawyer’s submissions, the Dawadmi High Court announced that the matter will be referred to the Supreme Judicial Council for a decision.

Al-Shammary also argued that Nafeek was 17 years old at the time of the infant’s death – a minor according to Saudi Law. She came to KSA through a placement agency that wrongly put her age at 23. Further, she was never hired as a child carer and the death of the infant occurred due to Nafeek’s lack of experience with newborns.

According to Nafeek, she was bottle-feeding the child when it started choking on the milk. Nafeek called for help but the child died by the time its mother arrived. The father of the child and Nafeek’s sponsor in Riyadh, Naif Jiziyan Khalaf Al Otaibi, immediately turned her over to the police where she was allegedly made to sign a confession in Arabic under duress. Regardless of the fact that she retracted her confession later in court, she was sentenced to public beheading in Dawadmi, on 16 June 2007, by a three-member panel of judges led by Chief Judge Abdullah Abdulaziz Al-Rosaimi.

A month later, her lawyers appealed the verdict to the higher Court of Cassation, which upheld the death penalty verdict, yet sent the case back to the lower court for review. Hence, in December 2007, the case was sent back to Dawadmi to review its death penalty verdict. Since then, the case has been bouncing back and forth between the Dawadmi court and the Supreme Judicial Council.

Thus, presently, the case resides with the Supreme Judicial Council for review of Nafeek’s lawyer’s submissions made on 9 June 2008.

For detailed background information, please refer below to our previous alerts about the Rizana’s case:

2) Action Required

a. Write to King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud and request him to grant Ms Nafeek clemency in her case.

King Abdullah Bin ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Al-Saud
The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques
Office of His Majesty the King
Royal Court,
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Fax (via Ministry of the Interior): + 966 1 403 1185

b. Write to Prince Saud Al Faisal bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Minister of Foreign Affairs of KSA, and request him to grant Ms Nafeek clemency.

HRH Prince Saud al-Faisal bin \\\\\’Abdul \\\\\’Aziz Al-Saud
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Nasseriya Street
Riyadh 11124
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Fax: + 966 1 403 0645

c. Write to Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Minister of Interior of KSA, and request him to grant Ms Nafeek clemency.

HRH Prince Naif bin ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Al-Saud
Minister of the Interior
Ministry of the Interior
P.O. Box 2933
Airport Road
Riyadh 11134
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Fax: + 966 1 403 1185


Sample letters are given below for your convenience. Please note that model letters can be sent directly or adjusted as necessary to include further details. If you receive a reply to the letter you send, we request you to send a copy of the letter you sent and the reply you received to IHRC. This is extremely important as it helps IHRC to monitor the situation with regards to our campaigns and to improve upon the current model letters.


Sample Letter

[Your Name]
[Your Address]


[Recipient’s Address]

Your Majesty,

Re: Sri Lankan Girl on Death Penalty

I request Your Excellency to grant clemency to Ms Rizana Nafeek. She was sentenced to death by the Dawadmi High Courts, for allegedly strangling a four-month-old infant belonging to Mr Naif Jiziyan Khalaf Al Otaibi in May 2005.

I request Your Excellency to exercise mercy in her case, as she was a minor when the accident happened. Ms Nafeek comes from a poor family, she has no support or family in Saudi Arabia, hence she did not have the means to defend herself in the courts.

I therefore appeal to you, to show compassion to Ms Nafeek and pardon her, and let her return to her country in the same manner you have graciously granted similar pardons in the past.

Yours sincerely,

[Your Signature]
[Your Name]

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Holy Qur’an: Chapter 4, Verse 75

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