Sri Lankan Housemaid Beheaded

Saudi Arabia beheaded a Sri Lankan maid on Wednesday after she was convicted of murdering her employer’s baby, a statement by the Ministry of Interior said, despite appeals from the Sri Lankan president and international human rights organizations to halt the execution.

The Interior Ministry statement said Rizana Nafeek has smothered the infant to death after an argument with the child’s mother, her employer, in the province of Dawadmi near Riyadh. Nafeek was only 17 when the incident occurred in 2005, and she had told the court that the baby had choked to death when drinking from a bottle.

Rights groups criticized the handling of the case by Saudi authorities. Human Rights Watch said Nafeek had retracted “a confession that she said was made under duress, and says that the baby died in a choking accident while drinking from a bottle.” Amnesty International said Saudi Arabia, as a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), is prohibited from imposing the death penalty on persons who were under 18 years old at the time of the offense.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has made a personal appeal to King Abdullah seeking royal intervention to suspend the execution of Nafeek. Members of Parliament observed a minute’s silence in her memory, reports in local media said.