Saturday, July 2, 2011

Rizana Nafeek,:Sri Lankan government plans to send a special delegation to seek clemency


COLOMBO: On an initiative made by Sri Lanka’s Justice Minister Rauf Hakeem, the Sri Lankan government plans to send a special delegation to seek clemency for Rizana Nafeek, the housemaid who was sentenced to death by a high court in Saudi Arabia for the murder of a four-month-old infant in her care.
A three-member bench at the Dawadmi High Court, some 380 km from the capital, sentenced Nafeek for killing the baby she was entrusted to look after in the absence of her Saudi employers at home. She maintains that the newborn choked during bottle feeding and that she tried to seek help.
Nafeek entered the Kingdom as a minor (aged 17) to work as a maid on documents forged by her recruiter to work as a maid. She was then assigned nanny duties by the family.
Hakeem said he discussed Nafeek’s issue with the Saudi delegation, which attended  the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization (AALCO) that concluded in Colombo on Friday.
The Sri Lankan minister sought the release of Nafeek on humanitarian grounds considering thepoor circumstances of her family. However, Mansoor Al-Ghaffari, leader of the Saudi delegation at the AALCO meeting and adviser to the minister of justice, and Farook Wazir Ali, charge d’affaires of the Saudi Embassy in Colombo, said the Shariah is supreme. In cases deemed to be homicide, the state cannot intervene on the private rights of the next of kin. To spare the condemned the death penalty, the family must either forgive her or come to a blood-money settlement, which often involves a reconciliation committee and financial help from charitable individuals or institutions.
Hakeem has requested a meeting with the victim’s  family and the respective tribal leaders to seek reconciliation. The minister said that he could also arrange for the blood money in the event financial compensation is requested in return for private clemency from the family.
Basil Fernando, director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, which has been active in this case, had also sent an appeal to all foreign missions based in the Kingdom to exercise their influence to negotiate a pardon from the parents.
It is illegal for a foreign resident under the age of 18 to work in the Kingdom. And anyone who criminally facilitates such an act — such as forging identity papers to acquire a visa — is a human trafficker. As of yet there have been no charges filed in Sri Lanka pertaining to this crime.
It is believed that a facilitator in Sri Lanka forged Nafeek's age in order to send her to the Kingdom as a housemaid.
Saudi Arabia is a signatory to an international agreement not to put to death people who have committed capital crimes as minors. However, when the pledge was signed the Saudi government underscored at the time that it could not and would not contradict Shariah rules on private rights and administering capital punishment under Islamic law.
This leaves minors at the mercy of the next of kin in cases that are ruled homicide. The defense has argued that the crime was accidental death, but the court struck down that argument and sided with the family in its claim Rizana maliciously murdered their infant.

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