Despite an international backlash from human rights groups, Saudi Arabia on Sunday defended its execution of a Sri Lankan maid who reportedly was a minor at the time an infant in her care died.
Rizana Nafeek was publicly beheaded Wednesday for the death her employers' four-month-old son in 2005 when the maid was reportedly just 17, according to BBC. The family said she strangled the boy, Kayed bin Nayef bin Jazyan al-Otaibi, after being asked to bottle-feed him, but Nafeek said the infant accidentally choked on milk.
"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia categorically rejects any interference in its affairs or in the provisions of its judiciary under any justifications," a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency read.
Saudi Arabia is a signatory to the international Convention on the Rights of the Child, which bars the execution of offenders who were under 18 at the time of their crime, but the Saudi statement denied allegations by Nafeek's supporters that she was a minor at the time of the boy's death. It claims her official passport showed she was 21.
"As it is universally recognized, the passport is an official document issued by her government," the statement said. "Moreover, the legal regulations of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia do not allow the recruitment of minors."
International human rights groups, the European Union and the United Nations have spoken out against Nafeek's punishment, arguing her execution was a breach of international child rights. These groups contend that Nafeek did not have access to a lawyer during her pretrial interrogation, where she claims she was assaulted and forced to sign a confession under duress.
In Saudi Arabia, the death penalty is routinely allowed for criminals convicted of murder, rape, armed robbery, drug trafficking or drug use, and apostasy or the renunciation of the Islamic faith, according to human rights group Amnesty International.
Amnesty says Saudi Arabia executed at least 79 people in 2012.
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