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Saudi Arabia defends decision to execute maid who let baby die while in her care

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 14th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Saudi Arabia is standing by its decision to execute a maid who allegedly strangled a baby boy to death while in her care. Taking a stand against international criticism, the official Saudi Press Agency declared in a statement, "The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia categorically rejects any interference in its affairs or in the provisions of its judiciary under any justifications."

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A tidal wave of criticism from human rights groups, which included the Sri Lankan government, called for leniency in the case of Rizana Nafeek. Convicted of killing her employers' son in 2005, the family claims that Nafeek strangled the boy. Nafeek said the infant, Kayed bin Nayef bin Jazyan al-Otaibi accidentally choked on milk.

She was beheaded last week amid condemnation by human rights groups, the European Union and the United Nations. The Saudis said complaints about her execution "draw on false information about the case and are issued without full knowledge of the circumstances of the case itself."

The Saudi statement also denied allegations by Nafeek's advocates that she was a minor at the time of the boy's death. Sri Lanka says that Nafeek was only 17 at the time of the incident. In reply, the Saudi statement said her official passport showed she was 21 when the boy died.

"As it is universally recognized, the passport is an official document issued by her government," the statement said. "Moreover, the legal regulations of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia do not allow the recruitment of minors."

Saudi Arabia is a signatory to the international Convention on the Rights of the Child, which bars the execution of offenders who were under 18 at the time of their crime.

Nafeek had "all rights to have a legal defense," with the Sri Lankan government monitoring the case. Saudi officials "at the highest levels" urged the infant's family members to agree to clemency or a payment of "blood money" in exchange for sparing Nafeek's life, but they refused.

Nafeek was beheaded last week in Dawadmi, a small, dusty town about 125 miles west of Riyadh. Sri Lanka has withdrawn its ambassador to Saudi Arabia in response to the execution, which Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa beseeching Saudi King Abdullah twice to halt the execution.

"We pointed out to Saudi officials that Rizana came to their country as a housemaid. She was not competent or trained to look after a baby, who she had been assigned to her by her employer," External Affairs Secretary Karunatilaka Amunugama said in a statement released last week.

Other human rights groups said Nafeek did not have access to a lawyer during her pretrial interrogation, during which she said she was assaulted and forced to sign a confession under duress.

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