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Sun 13 Jan 2013 11:55 AM

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At least 45 foreign maids on death row in Saudi

Human rights groups' estimates come days after Saudi beheaded 24-year old Sri Lankan

At least 45 foreign maids on death row in Saudi
(Image for illustrative purposes).

At least 45 foreign maids are on death row in Saudi Arabia amid growing concerns over the treatment of the Gulf state’s migrant workforce, the UK's The Observer newspaper said. 

The figure, based on estimates from human rights groups, comes several days after Saudi Arabia beheaded a 24-year old Sri Lankan housemaid for killing a child left in her care in 2005.

Rizana Nafeek was executed in Dawadmy, near the capital Riyadh, on Wednesday morning despite appeals by her home country against the death sentence.

Indonesian housemaids are believed to account for the majority of those facing the death sentence.  Human rights groups said 45 Indonesian women are currently on death row, five of whom have exhausted the legal process, said The Observer. 

Like many Gulf states, Saudi Arabia relies heavily on foreign workers to fill jobs at all levels of the economy but protection of migrant workers has become a serious issue following reports of poor working conditions and low pay.

Saudi Arabia temporarily placed a ban on recruiting workers from the Philippines and Indonesia after those countries sought to impose stricter employment conditions.

Nafeek was sentenced to death in 2007 after her employer accused her of killing his daughter.

Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry said the country’s president had made several appeals against the decision, which was upheld by the Saudi Supreme Court in 2010.

“President Mahinda Rajapaksa made a personal appeal on two occasions immediately after the confirmation of the death sentence, and a few days ago to stop the execution and grant a pardon to Miss Rizana Nafeek,” said the ministry in a statement to Reuters.

“President Rajapaksa and the government of Sri Lanka deplore the execution of Miss Rizana Nafeek despite all efforts at the highest level of the government and the outcry of the people locally and internationally over the death sentence of a juvenile housemaid," it said.

A recruitment agency in Sri Lanka altered the birth date on Nafeek’s passport, changing her age from 17 years old to 23 years old so she could apply for work in Saudi Arabia, said Human Rights Watch. Sri Lanka later sentenced two recruitment agents to two years in prison for the falsification of Nafeek’s travel documents.

“Rizana was just a child herself at the time of the baby’s death, and she had no lawyer to defend her and no competent interpreter to translate her account,” said Nisha Varia, senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“Saudi Arabia should recognise, as the rest of the world long has, that no child offender should ever be put to death.”

The group condemned the execution. “Saudi Arabia is one of just three countries that executes people for crimes they committed as children,” said Varia. “Rizana Nafeek is yet another victim of the deep flaws in Saudi Arabia's judicial system.”

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Red Snappa 7 years ago

Having worked for a good number of years, the figures quoted are just the tip of the iceberg there are many, many foreign prisoners from both northern and southern hemispheres in Saudi jails. Their original individual cases are completely out of sight and forgotten, some governments are simply not prepared to stand up for clemency, at least Sri Lanka tried.

Mohammad H. Al-Dossary 7 years ago

Why the British media and others are making big headlines of this incident? This is Islamic law enforced by the Saudi Government. Anyone who kills another person will be beheaded unless the family of the victim forgives the killer and stop his/her execution, against payment of blood money or even without any compensation. In other words, it is not up to the Saudi Government to waive the death penalty and stop the execution. I remember a Saudi national case in the North of Saudi Arabia where the King had sent a representative to the father of the victim and offered him millions, but it did not work and the killer was executed. Rizana Nafeek is a murderer. She killed the child of her employer in 2005, when she was 23 years old. She is not a juvenile housemaid and she was 30 years old when she was executed.

Mazen 7 years ago

Who forced them to come the Land of the Two Holy Mosques? Why did they defy the laws of our Kingdom?

Whoever can answer those questions honestly will see where the problem lies in this case.

procan 7 years ago

For me this information is educational I believe it helps for westerners to understand the Middle Eastern mind set better.I will not criticize I will simply observe and remember.Although we are the same, we are different in many ways and and always will be.

Joseph 7 years ago

The law is islamic but areyou sure that the implementation is Islamic. First of all to establish the crime, why the post mortem was not done on killed baby. How you can ensure that Rizzana killed that baby or it might have died due to some other reason too. In saudi, whenever the invovlement of saudi v/s expat, the law enforcer always favour saudi. You will never see any saudi beaded for killing expat. The bottom line is very clear that suadi only gets punishment for crime against saudi.

kingkaiser 7 years ago

So Mazen, because she came to your land, its alright to kill her without due legal process? I'm sure you'd feel somewhat differently if your next business trip/job/vacation ended the same way.

kingkaiser 7 years ago

She was underaged when she allegedly committed the crime; how old she was at the time of execution is irrelevant. You probably got into fights as a child, but that has no bearing on your actions today.

Secondly, apparently she was denied due legal process, and "had no lawyer to defend her and no competent interpreter to translate her account" according to Human Rights Watch. If she was guilty beyond doubt, i'd probably support your view. As it stands, an innocent woman may have been killed.

Thamir Ghaslan 7 years ago

Human Rights to migrants workers??? bo ho ho! What about the Saudis human rights to life?

Always trying to paint the Saudis as the vilans and ignoring or minimizing or justifying the crimes of baby murderers.

Doug 7 years ago

No-one is denying the rights of Saudis to life. However, granting foreigners the right to a fair trial does not deprive Saudis of their rights. There are several issues here which are being conflated when they shouldn't be. The first is the issue of the death penalty. That's a red herring; if the penalty for murder in Saudi Arabia is death, then the rest of the world just has to accept that.

The second issue is whether the death penalty should be applied to children, and the third is whether foreigners get a fair trial in Saudi Arabia. The problem is that most people suspect this isn't the case. In fact I am willing to bet that if a 17-year-old Saudi killed a baby foreigner, they would not be facing the death penalty.

Nirsly 7 years ago


"the rest of the world just has to accept that." what?

You mean like you accept 3,146 people on death row in the USA? 60% of whom are minorities? Or China's record?

You bet a Saudi wouldn't be executed? Wow. So all those Saudis who have been beheaded weren't really Saudis. The several members of the Royal family on Death Row in Saudi aren't really there.

The first thing foreigners ask for in Saudi when a relative experiences violent crime is for Islamic justice to take place against the perpetrator.