Alert: Sri Lankan Teenager Facing Miscarriage of Justice in Saudi Arabia

Alert: Sri Lankan Teenager Facing Miscarriage of Justice in Saudi Arabia

Islamic Human Rights Commission

27 September 2007

Alert: Sri Lankan Teenager Facing Miscarriage of Justice in Saudi Arabia

This Ramadan, we urge you to campaign for Sri Lankan teenage girl, Rizana Nafeek, currently detained facing the death penalty in KSA, after she was allegedly forced to confess to strangling a four-month-old infant put in her care by the family that employed her.

1) Background

Rizana Nafeek, a seventeen year old girl belonging to an impoverished village in Sri Lanka, migrated to Saudi Arabia to work to support her family. She arrived in Riyadh on 4 May 2005 on an altered passport which reportedly misstated her year of birth as 1982, obtained from an employee recruitment agency in Sri Lanka.

Her sponsor in Riyadh was Naif Jiziyan Khalaf Al Otaibi who transferred her to his house in Dawadami to work as a maid. She was responsible for the daily household chores as well as for looking after Mr Otaibi’s four-month old infant son, which she was not trained to do. On 22 May 2005, while Ms Nafeek was bottle-feeding the infant, he began choking on the milk. Ms Nafeek reportedly shouted for help, but the child died by the time his mother arrived.

Ms Nafeek was immediately turned over to the police, and was not provided any assistance from a lawyer or interpreter. She was reportedly made to sign confession documents in Arabic, but on 2 February 2007, she retracted her confession in court, stating that she had been made to confess under duress. On 16 June 2007, she was sentenced to death for the murder of Mr Otaibi’s son by a panel of three judges in Dawadami High Court.

Under Islamic Shariah law, the death sentence can be revoked if the victim’s family agrees on accepting compensation in terms of money from the accused, but so far Mr Otaibi has refused to grant Ms Nafeek clemency. Ms Nafeek has appealed against the death sentence with the assistance of lawyers appointed for her case by the Sri Lankan embassy in KSA but if her appeal fails she will be executed. Since then many human rights organizations as well as Sri Lankan government officials have protested and appealed to the Saudi authorities as well as the victim’s family against the death sentence.

Officials from the Sri Lankan embassy have been visiting Ms Nafeek who report that she is being treated well in prison and that she is confident of her release. Her case is being currently review by a higher court of appeal.

2) Action Required

a. Write to King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud and request him to grant Ms Nafeek clemency this Ramadan.

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

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 this Ramadan.

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

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

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


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 Teenager Rizana Nafeek on Death Penalty

In this blessed month of Ramadan, I request Your Excellency to grant clemency to Ms Rizana Nafeek. She is a Sri Lankan teenager, sentenced to death by the Dawadami 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 in this month of mercy, 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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