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Rights body concerned Sri Lanka envoy's recall may affect death row teen case
23 Jul, 2007 13:50:58
July 23, 2007 (LBO) – The sudden recall of Sri Lanka's envoy in Saudi Arabia may affect the case of a teenager on death row, a rights body which championed her cause said Monday in an open letter to President Mahinda Rajapkse.
It also urged the government to sign a treaty that will allow better legal protection for migrant workers in that country.

The Asian Human Rights Commission referred to a report on The Sunday Times newspaper which said Sri Lanka's ambassador in Riyadh had been recalled over his failure to get official appointments for a visiting Sri Lankan deputy minister.

The minister wanted to meet Saudi officials and the parents of a baby who died while being bottled fed by Rizana Nafeek, a Sri Lankan housemaid who was said to be 17 years old at the time.

He was accompanied by the condemned teen's parents. Earlier the Saudi embassy also delayed visa's for the delegation citing the lack of appointments.

"It is not our intention to comment on the internal matters of the government," the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) which has come forward with money to appeal the teen's case said, "however, we are concerned that the case of Rizana Nafeek can be adversely affected in the circumstances."

Meanwhile a spokesman for the foreign ministry said the recall was routine.

The Asian Human Rights Commission said it appreciated the "excellent intervention" by Sri Lanka's envoy in Riyadh, A.M.J. Sadiq in co-ordinating the appeal and mobilizing the funds and other activities of civil society organizations on behalf of the girl.

The AHRC also urged the government to sign a treaty with Saudi Arabia and other countries where Sri Lankan worked to ensure better legal protection.

"Under these circumstances we would suggest the government of Sri Lanka to review its policy regarding the legal protection that should be available to Sri Lankan citizens who work as migrant workers abroad," AHRC said.

"Such agreements can make it possible for the Sri Lankan government to prosecute or punish these cases under Sri Lankan law and, in case they are tried in a foreign land, to ensure that they get proper legal representation through the services of the receiving country," AHRC said.

"Until such agreements are arrived at the Sri Lankan government should provide such services and seek, if necessary, the services of other citizens and organisations, local or international to assist the government in this regard."

AHRC said it hoped the case of Rizana Nafeek may serve as a wake-up call to awaken authorities and persons concerned with the welfare of migrant workers to find ways to provide effective services to persons who may face problems in the future.
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