A demonstration was held in Colombo today to demand the immediate release of Rizana Nafeek. A month after Rizana was sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia, Groundviews ran an article urging the public to act to save her life.Â Rizana’s future: what WE CAN DO noted that,
“Rizana, like hundreds of thousands of other Sri Lankan women, had gone to work in the Middle East to alleviate her and her family’s poverty. Through the remittance from people like her, Sri Lanka is kept financially afloat. There have been reports of Government representatives meeting to figure out what to do. But in this situation, I am not optimistic that Sri Lanka’s Government will do anything that is effective to help a poor Muslim woman (who has no political influence) on death-row in a far away country. Out of sight, out of mind.”
Three years on, nothing has changed and the author’s pessimism over the Sri Lankan government’s inability to secure her release wasn’t ill-placed. More seriously, it appears that the Sri Lankan government completely failed to give the legal representation Rizana was entitled to receive during her trial. Vienna Convention and Sri Lankan Child Worker on Death Row by Donna E. Chung, Ph.D., also published in 2007, avers,
“The Sri Lankan government, however, continues to overlook an important mechanism for protecting the legal rights of its nationals like Rizana. It has failed to invoke its right to arrange for Rizana’s legal representation promptly, even while being signatory to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. It also has failed to adopt the Optional Protocol Concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes, thereby forfeiting the power to take Rizana’s case to the International Court of Justice. These failures point to critical inadequacies in Sri Lanka’s capacity to protect the legal rights of its citizens who labour beyond its borders. By its inaction, the government of Sri Lanka subjects perhaps the most vulnerable segment of its citizenry – those driven outside its borders by poverty and desperation Â€Â“to unjust imprisonment and execution.”
In October 2010, Rizana’s death sentence was confirmed by the Saudi courts. News reports published in late October suggested that President Mahinda Rajapaksa would make a direct appeal to King of Saudi Arabia to revoke the death sentence imposed upon Rizana. In mid-November, the Asian Human Rights Commission noted that His Royal Highness King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia had taken the initial steps towards a reprieve for Rizana. The AHRC has paid over US$40,000 for the legal counsel of Rizana and has issued several press releases since 2007 flagging her plight, including the most recent appeal that includes details on how to write to Saudi officials to release Rizana AHRC-UAU-041-2010.Â Â Further information on the case can be found on AHRC press releasesÂ AHRC-STM-219-2010, AHRC-STM-214-2010, STM-003-2009, STM-258-2008, UA-207-2007, UP-097-2007, UP-093-2007; PL-023-2007 and UG-004-2007.
Sam in Rizana’s future: what WE CAN DO suggested some ways we could help free Rizana. Tragically, three years hence, she is still on death row and some of his points remain valid. We strongly urge you to do at least one of the following,
- Inform Sri Lankan diaspora world-wide of the case and get them to relay pressure on the governments of the countries they live in to intervene. People in Europe and Australia could be very effective.
- Approach the British High Commission in Riyadh that a Commonwealth citizen needs assistance.
- Contact the Foreign Commonwealth Office and inform them a Commonwealth citizen needs assistance in Riyadh.
- Encourage the media, especially the international media, to give publicity to this case.
- Fax or email the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions to take action. The contents of the fax or email can be a detailed submission, or simply a personal request to please investigate the case of Rizana’s further.