Rizana Nafeek (4 February 1988 – 9 January 2013) was a Sri Lankan woman who was executed by beheading in Saudi Arabia for a homicide, which Nafeek argued was unintentional. Nafeek said that an initial confession was made under duress and without linguistic assistance. Sri Lanka unsuccessfully sought clemency for Nafeek.
Nafeek was born on 4 February 1988. She grew up in a poor Muslim family in the eastern province of Sri Lanka. Her education was terminated in her early teenage years due to poverty.
Employment in Saudi Arabia
Nafeek was only 17 years old when she arrived to work in Saudi Arabia on 4 May 2005. Her passport was forged to mark the birth year as 1982, because minors were not allowed to be recruited in Sri Lanka for work abroad. She began work as a domestic helper in Dawadamissa, some 400 kilometers from Riyadh. On 22 May 2005, her employer's infant child died while in Nafeek's care. Nafeek said that she believed the baby had choked on a bottle by accident during feeding. The baby's parents and Saudi police insisted that Nafeek was guilty of murder.
Nafeek was imprisoned and sentenced to death on 16 June 2007. The President of Sri Lanka twice personally requested a pardon for Nafeek from theKing of Saudi Arabia. Human rights activists held many demonstrations calling for her release. In October 2010, according to a senior official of Sri Lanka's External Affairs Ministry, Charles, Prince of Wales, appealed to the Saudi King, seeking clemency for Nafeek. The Hong Kong-basedAsian Human Rights Commission appealed for Queen Elizabeth II to intervene and plead for clemency for Nafeek on Her Majesty's diamond jubilee.
Nafeek was executed by beheading on 9 January 2013, despite an appeal from the government of Sri Lanka.
The Sri Lankan Parliament observed a moment of silence soon after it received the news of the execution. UNP, the main opposition party of Sri Lanka, held a special media briefing hours after the execution. In that media briefing the opposition MP Ranjan Ramanayake described the Saudi government as "dictators" and emphasized that the Saudi government never executes citizens of rich European or North American countries but only the citizens from poor Asian and African countries.
The case of Rizana Nafeek has come under intense scrutiny worldwide as international law prohibits the death penalty for crimes committed before the age of 18.