UN chief dismayed by Saudi beheading of Sri Lanka maid

UNITED NATIONS Sat Jan 12, 2013 12:47am IST

UNITED NATIONS Jan 11 (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed dismay on Friday at the execution of a Sri Lankan housemaid in Saudi Arabia over the death of an infant in her care.

Rizana Nafeek was beheaded in the town of Dawadmy, near the capital Riyadh, on Wednesday morning after being sentenced to death in 2007. She was accused by her Saudi employer of killing his infant daughter while she was bottle-feeding in 2005.

The secretary-general "is concerned about reports of irregularities in her detention and trial, as well as the increase in the use of capital punishment in Saudi Arabia," Ban's press office said in a statement.

Ban insisted that all men and women in Saudi Arabia - regardless of their migration status or nationality - be treated under international human rights law, which includes the right to a fair trial.

"Currently, in Saudi Arabia, women do not have equal access to the courts or an equal opportunity to obtain justice. The Secretary-General is concerned that this is a situation which is even more precarious for women migrant workers given their foreign status," the statement said.

The Sri Lankan government appealed the death penalty but the Saudi Supreme Court upheld the sentence in 2010. Sri Lanka said on Thursday it had recalled its envoy to Saudi Arabia over the execution.

The Saudi Interior Ministry said the infant was strangled after a dispute between the maid and the baby's mother.

Saudi households are highly dependent on housemaids from African and South Asian countries. There have been reported cases of domestic abuse in which families mistreat their maids, who have then attacked the children of their employers.

Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally, is an absolute monarchy that follows the strict Wahhabi school of Islam. Judges base decisions on their own interpretation of sharia, or Islamic law, rather than on a written legal code or on precedent. (Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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