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Family of Rizana Should be Enabled to go to Riyadh

November 17, 2010

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

SAUDI ARABIA/SRI LANKA: The AHRC urges the government of Sri Lanka to immediately enable the family of Rizana Nafeek to go to Riyadh

The Asian Human Rights Commission urges the government of Sri Lanka to immediately enable the family of Rizana Nafeek to travel to Riyadh to participate in the proceedings of Rizana's case. It is of the highest importance that Rizana's family are present in Riyadh during this critical time. Their presence will have an essential impact on the diplomatic discussions currently represented by officials from the Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyad and will facilitate the appeals to the family of the deceased infant and the Saudi King to grant Rizana pardon.

Rizana's family lives in Safi Nagar in the Muttur district in the eastern province of Sri Lanka, 280 kilometres from Colombo. It is one of the extremely impoverished Muslim villages gravely marked by the 26-year-long civil war between the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Throughout the war Safi Nagar was a border village between a government ruled side and a LTTE-controlled part. Rizana's father is a woodcutter and the family relied on Rizana to become the breadwinner. Out of desperation the family contacted the Sri Lankan recruitment agency, who altered Rizana's date of birth in her passport and sent her for employment in Saudi Arabia. Not long after, the family was informed Rizana had been arrested on the charge of murdering an infant.

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After Rizana was sentenced to death in 2007, her parents were taken to the prison in Riyadh to see their daughter, which was the last time they saw her. When the death sentence was confirmed in October 2010, the family was not informed. It was only after a Sri Lankan journalist showed up at the prison in Riyadh, that the confirmation was revealed and Rizana's family only came to know about the dreadful news from the media.

As it is impossible to understand the feeling of desolation Rizana and her family are going through at the moment, it is vital that her family be by her side and take part in the efforts made for her release. The United National Party MP for Ratnapura district, Ranjan Ramanayake has allegedly visited her family to provide them with financial assistance and is now raising the issues regarding the highly criticisable methods of recruitment and exploitation of foreign employment in Sri Lanka in parliament. The AHRC strongly urge Ramanayake to push for the family’s immediate travel to Riyadh.

All diplomatic dialogues have been postponed until after the Islamic holiday of Eid Al-Adha, which follows the annual Islamic pilgrimage, Hajj to Mount Arafat near Mekka in Saudi Arabia. However, it is crucial to maintain the pressure on King Abdullah and the Minister of Interior in Saudi Arabia not to allow the Hajj shade the case of Rizana. As the official holidays will end this Friday, it marks both the time for possible diplomatic discussion, but also the time for carrying out executions in Saudi Arabia.

The holy time of the Hajj is considered a time of peace and because of the millions of pilgrims, tourists and the attention that Saudi Arabia attracts during this period; therefore executions are generally delayed to after the Eid festival. The plea for Rizana is therefore of the utmost urgency as her beheading could be carried out without warning in a very near future.

The Sri Lankan External Affairs Ministry’s Consular Chief Somadasa Wijeysundera announced this Monday that King Abdullah has taken the initial steps to direct officials to meet with the family of the deceased infant. The international as well as national community should step up the pressure on the Saudi King to ensure that his words will lead to direct action.


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