A young Sri Lankan woman has been beheaded in Saudi Arabia amid much controversy. The former maid, Rizana Nafeek, was convicted in 2007 for the murder of Naif al-Quthaibi, a four month old baby. Saudi officials stated that Nafeek had killed the baby after an argument with its mother who she was working for, and that she had confessed to the murder.
Nafeek had argued that the confession was forced from her. Her supporters also say that she was given no personal legal representation and no assistance with the language and translation problems she had. International human rights groups had also got involved in the case as it emerged that she was only 17 years old at the time she was said to have committed the murder. Although this would mean that Nafeek and/or Sri Lankan employment agencies had made false documents to get her to work in Saudi Arabia, technically she would be classed as a child of 17. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch insist her execution is in violation of a UN Convention that Saudi Arabia had ratified – that for the Right of the Child.
The Sri Lankan government have strongly opposed the conviction and execution of Nafeek, which their foreign ministry said happened ‘despite all efforts at the highest level of government and the outcry of the people locally and internationally.’ There has been new debate about the economic conditions which mean many Sri Lankan people leave their home country to work abroad, mainly in the Middle East, where there is not sufficient safety and protection for domestic workers in particular. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) also announced ‘urgent’ laws are needed to properly cover domestic workers.