Petition: Time is running out for Indonesian domestic worker on Saudi death row
SAUDI ARABIA -
UPDATES on April 4:
Despite urgent calls from the international community, a 41 year-old Indonesian domestic worker on death row in Saudi Arabia faces execution this week– unless the King or the victim’s family intervene to spare her life.
Satinah Binti Jumadi Ahmad confessed to murdering her employer Nura al-Garib in 2007, but always maintained it was in self-defence after al-Garib tried to smash her head against a wall following months of emotional and physical abuse against the migrant worker.
As permitted by Saudi law, the relatives of al-Garib are asking for a diya – or “blood money” – of 7 million riyals (US$ 1.9 million) in order to stop the execution.
After being postponed several times, the deadline for the execution has been set for Thursday 3 April, triggering a race against time to raise the money.
According to media reports, the Indonesian government has managed to secure 4 million riyals (US$ 1 million) and has asked the family of al-Garib to lower the diya, but to no avail.
Amnesty International recently launched an urgent petition, calling on the King of Saudi Arabia to commute the death sentence.
The petition also expresses concerns that “the death penalty is used disproportionately against foreign nationals in Saudi Arabia, particularly migrant workers from poor and developing countries in Africa and Asia, and that nearly all such migrant workers are at great risk if they end up in your country’s criminal justice system.”
Beheading is the most common form of execution in Saudi Arabia, although stoning and firing squads are also occasionally used. Saudi Arabia is one of the few countries in the world that carries out executions in public.
Migrant workers in danger
According to Amnesty International’s latest report on the death penalty, Saudi Arabia ranked fourth in 2013 in terms of the number of executions, with 79 state-sponsored killings, behind China, Iran and Iraq.
Nearly half of them (37) were carried out against non-Saudis, who often face trials in Arabic with little or no knowledge of the language and insufficient translation during the hearings.
Over the years, this had led to a number of high-profile cases that have brought Saudi Arabia’s human rights record under intense scrutiny.
Last year for example, Rizana Nafeek, a Sri Lankan woman who was reportedly under 18 at a time of her alleged crime, was publicly beheaded, thus violating the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Some domestic workers have also faced capital punishment after being accused of “witchcraft”. And in June 2011, the execution of Ruyati Binti Satubi, a grandmother from Indonesia, led to a moratorium on the migration of domestic workers to Saudi Arabia.
Despite the measure, there are still an estimated 1.5 million foreign domestic workers in the oil-rich Kingdom, mainly from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Nepal.
Horror stories about their slave-like work conditions have emerged over the years, with excessive work, unpaid wages, confinement to the workplace being commonplace, as well as beatings, torture and rape.
In a bid to calm growing fears, the Saudi government recently signed a bilateral agreement with Indonesia guaranteeing domestic workers the right to keep their passports, communicate with their families, get time off work and a monthly wage.
But according to Human Rights Watch: “These reforms do not address the long history of workers coming forward with complaints only to be slammed with counter-allegations of theft, witchcraft, or adultery by their far more influential, well-connected, and often wealthy employers.”
Saudi Arabia should fully comply with the ILO Domestic Workers Convention and ensure the fairness of its justice system says the human rights NGO.
“While Saudi Arabia and Indonesia’s new agreement opens the door for greater protections, the crucial test will be seeing improvements in domestic workers’ lives.”
The Indonesian government seems to agree. A senior official reportedly indicated that lifting the moratorium would have to wait “until the accomplishment of a better placement system, requirements and job agreement standards to assure better protection and welfare for Indonesian workers working there.”
It is unclear though how the bilateral relations between the two countries will be affected if Satinah Binti Jumadi Ahmad is executed this Thursday.
Story Type: News