Saudi Arabia: Alleged 'nail' abuse of Sri Lankan maid must be investigated

Amnesty International has urged the Saudi Arabian authorities to urgently investigate allegations by a Sri Lankan woman that she was seriously abused while employed as a domestic servant in Saudi Arabia.

According to press reports in Sri Lanka and information received by Amnesty, LP Ariyawathie, a 49-year-old mother of three, was severely abused by her employers in Saudi Arabia when she complained about her heavy workload.

Her employers are alleged to have driven 24 nails and a needle into her hands, legs and forehead, causing severe injuries requiring hours of surgery when she returned to Sri Lanka in August. Some of the nails are reported to have been 5cm long. Doctors who treated her in Sri Lanka said she had been deeply traumatised by her experience.

LP Ariyawathie had reportedly travelled to Saudi Arabia to obtain employment as a domestic servant - as many other Sri Lankan Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights do to help support their families - in March. She is reported to have told doctors that she was subjected to abuse in July before she left her employment and returned home.

In a letter sent last week to Justice Minister Shaikh Dr Mohammed bin ‘Abdul ‘Aziz al-‘Issa, Amnesty urged the Saudi authorities to investigate the allegations of abuse made by Ariyawathie and to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice in accordance with international fair trial standards and without recourse to corporal punishment, and that she receives reparation for her injuries.

The investigation should also examine whether the Saudi police or other authorities were informed of Ariyawathie’s allegations before her return to Sri Lanka and what action, if any, was taken in response. Any police officers or other officials who learnt of the alleged abuse but failed to take action should also be held accountable.

LP Ariyawathie’s allegations have highlighted the long-standing problems faced by domestic workers - many Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights from developing countries in Asia - in Saudi Arabia. They face the same discriminatory judicial practices as Saudi Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights but also face language difficulties and the reality of being alone in a foreign country. Domestic workers are especially vulnerable to violence and exploitation by their employers and have little recourse against abuse.

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