South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) condemns the execution of Rizana Nafeek, and expresses grave concern about the continuing vulnerability experienced by many migrant workers from South Asian countries.
Rizana was 17 years old when she traveled to Saudi Arabia, under forged documents, to be employed as a domestic worker. The child in her care died, and while she claimed it was accidental, she was convicted of murder and sentenced to death, over two years later.
Efforts to have her pardoned were championed by many, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, but contrary to some reports that she would soon be pardoned, she was executed on 9th January 2013.
SAHR condemns the taking of life in any form, and execution by the State is no different. This practice is cruel and inhuman and violates international human rights standards, especially when it is considered the alleged crime took place when the accused was under the age of 18 and there are concerns she was not able to exercise her right to due process.
While migrants workers make invaluable and immense contributions to South Asian economies, the safeguards in place, both in their countries of origin and work, are woefully inadequate. Often, desperate people seeking financial relief for their families are exploited, and their travel and work abroad is sometimes facilitated by illegal bureaus that charge extortionate amounts of money. Violations of the rights of migrant workers, particularly in the Middle East, are well documented and range from confiscation of travel documents, to physical and sometimes sexual abuse.
Further, there is insufficient pre-departure education on foreign customs and laws, of their rights, and means of accessing redress while they are abroad, that is provided to migrant workers.
SAHR calls upon South Asian governments to improve the plight of this demographic, through reducing the need for them to seek employment abroad, and through greater pre-departure education.
SAHR also urges South Asian governments, governments of host countries, and international organisations to ensure that better monitoring systems and thorough safeguards are put in place, to ensure the rights of migrants workers are protected while abroad.
On behalf of South Asians for Human Rights,
Hina Jilani Dr. Nimalka Fernando