An Open Letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs seeking legalassistance for the young Sri Lankan woman facing the death sentence by beheading in Saudi Arabia
Secretary / Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Republic Building,Colombo 01, Sri Lanka.
Dear Dr. Kohona,
Re Rizana Nasik of Mutur--
the young girl facing death sentence by beheading:
Matter relating to legal assistance for her appeal.
I am sure you are aware of the death sentence pronounced on Rizana Nasik of Mutur by a Court in Saudi Arabia and who is now awaiting thedeath sentence. She still has time for filing an appeal which has tobe done soon. We have been informed that the Ministry of ForeignAffairs has been in contact with Rizana Nasik's family in Mutur. This family belongs to the lower income group and is totallyunable to meet the cost of litigation which according to your embassy sources in Saudi Arabia amounts to about Rs. 600,000. We alsounderstand that the father of Rizana Nasik has met Foreign Ministryofficials in Colombo and has already explained to them that thefamily does not have means to contribute to this appeal.
We also understand that the Sri Lankan embassy in Saudi Arabia hasalready made representations to the Ministry of Foreign Affairsrequesting funds to enable filing of this appeal. There also seems tobe good grounds for appeal since the entire case had been conducted in a language not understood by her and also without any meaningful interpretation provided to her. She had also not been legally represented at the trial. She is also quite young and is said to haveleft for employment a few months ago when she was only about 17 years of age. Furthermore the totality of evidence against her is supposedto be a confession which she had later withdrawn. In a foreign country under such circumstances and being of such young age, it isquite possible that she may have made the confession under duress.
Nonetheless, such defenses are hardly of much use within the legalsystem of Saudi Arabia. A Sri Lankan citizen--particularly ofthat young age--facing a criminal trial carrying the possibilityof the death sentence which within the particular jurisdiction is carried out rapidly Rizana Nasik would have deserved legal assistancefrom the embassy of her country from the very beginning. However, evenat this late stage, the Government of Sri Lanka owes it to this youngSri Lankan citizen to rapidly intervene and assist her. According tointerviews in the media, it appears that what prevents granting herlegal redress is some rule, regulation or policy that seems to denylegal assistance by the Sri Lankan Government to Sri Lankans migrating to other countries who are accused of criminal charges. I am sure you would agree that there is no legal basis to withdraw theprotection that the government of a particular country owes to itscitizens in this manner. Particularly, migrant workers who leave their countries for employment should not be deprived of legalprotection merely because they are accused of some crime. As you areaware, the Sri Lankan Constitution recognizes the presumption ofinnocence of a person until proven guilty.
It is hardly necessary to remind you of the fate of 4 other SriLankans who were beheaded recently--one of whom was in factsentenced only for 15 years of rigorous imprisonment. Even when thatmatter was being publicly discussed, Sri Lankan embassy officials in Saudi Arabia made promises to provide legal assistance to enablethese 4 persons to reviews their cases even at that last stage. The President of the country at the time, Chandrika Kumaratunga made apublic statement, which was published on the front page of some newspapers, that she will directly intervene with His Royal Highnessof Saudi Arabia to seek pardon on behalf of these 4 persons. The present President as Prime Minister then and later as President alsomade several public statements assuring that all attempts would be made to assist the 4 persons facing death sentence. However, when thedeath sentence was in fact carried out, no one--including embassyofficials in Saudi Arabia--was aware of it.
We are writing this to bring to your kind notice the pitiful plight of this young woman and to urge you to take all appropriate actionsto ensure that she will be provided with legal assistance to enableher to file this appeal. We also urge you to review any rule,regulation or policy that may exist obstructing the granting of protection owing to such a citizen.
Please sign the petition immediately to save Rizana at the following link:http://www.petitiononline.com/rizana1/petition.html
We hope that you will graciously and expeditiously intervene in thismatter.
Moon Jeong Ho
Urgent Appeals Desk.
Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong