In a sign of deteriorating relationship, Indonesia yesterday pulled out its ambassador in Saudi Arabia over the execution of an Indonesian female migrant worker there.
“We will also recall Ambassador Gatot Abudllah Mansyur from Riyadh, and keep the ambassadorial post in Saudi Arabia vacant until the issue is clear, and the condition of TKI (Indonesian Overseas Workers) placement is improved there. Ambassador Gatot is expected to return to Jakarta today,” Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said at a hearing with the House of Representative’s Commission I at the Indonesian Parliament Building in Monday.
Tension between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia has worsened since the beginning of this year over the mistreatment of its migrant workers, with strong public sentiment putting pressure on Indonesia lawmakers to act against Saudi Arabia.
Members of the public protested in front of the Embassy of Saudi Arabia and Indonesian Presidential Palace in Jakarta on Monday. As a result of the reaction, the Indonesian government summoned the Ambassador to Saudi Arabia for questioning about the death sentence. Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Indonesia Abdurrahman Mohammad Amen Al-Khayyat was summoned to the Indonesian Foreign Ministry to receive the diplomatic protest. He refused to be interviewed.
The latest row is about an Indonesian maid, named Ruyati Binti Sapubi, who were found guilty of murdering her Saudi employer in the oil-rich country. She was beheaded Saturday in the western province of Mecca.
Family showed photo of Ruyati, executed in Saudi Arabia
While Indonesia did not explicitly challenged her sentence, it condemned the execution method, beheading by sword. Without prejudice to the legal system in force in Saudi Arabia, the Indonesian government criticized that the execution was carried out without observing international practices relating to consular protection, Foreign Ministry spokesman Michael Tene told AFP.
Around 70 percent of the 1.2 million Indonesians working in Saudi Arabia are domestic helpers, according to officials.
The Indonesian Government says Saudi Arabia contravened international law by not allowing adequate consular access to Ruyati.
Indonesia’s presidential spokesman for international relations, Teuku Faizasyah, has told Connect Asia his government was also not informed of the execution in advance.
“It is a matter of international relations - any government must give notification and information if any execution will take place,” he said. "On this matter, Indonesia felt ‘cheated’ and disrespected’ by Saudi Arabia. It is regrettable that Saudi Arabia has repeatedly ignored its international obligation to inform related countries about consular affairs their nationals are facing.
Meanwhile, calls mounted for Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to take firm action against Saudi Arabia. “It is a slap to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono,” said Poengky Indarty of Impasial, an Indonesian human rights group. “Ruyati’s death constitutes his failure to protect the rights of Indonesian workers abroad.”
Indonesian foreign minister: Indonesia has recalled its ambassador from Saudi Arabia
The executive director for Indonesian prominent migrant workers right group ‘Migrant Care’, Anis Hidayah, says there is evidence Ruyati suffered abuse while in Saudi Arabia and the Indonesian Government didn’t provide enough support during the case or oppose the death penalty strongly.
“The government cannot explain clearly who Ruyati’s lawyer is and we [learned] that Ruyati was executed through a Saudi Arabian newspaper,” she said.
She says the execution could have been prevented.
“The Indonesian Government must provide assistance… and I think our president should also have negotiated with Saudi Arabia’s leader to free Ruyati from the death penalty.”
University of Indonesia international law expert Hikmahanto Juwana said the Saudi court should have considered that Ruyati might have committed what she did in self-defense.
In qisas [the principle of an eye for an eye], someone who commits murder must be sentenced to death. But that applies only when that person does it with ill intention, [which was not the case with Ruyati], he told The Jakarta Post. No Indonesian migrant worker who comes to Saudi Arabia has bad intentions, or intends to kill someone there.
Ruyati reportedly was often abused by her employer, did not receive her salary and her request to return home was denied.
Chairman of the DPR`s Commission I working meeting Mahfud Sidiq said that the beheading of the migrant worker had disturbed and angered the Indonesian people.
“We are disappointed because the government was not aware of the beheading of our migrant worker in Saudi Arabia, last Saturday (June 18),” he said.
Sapubi was ‘upset because she was frequently yelled at and disappointed because her employer refused to let her return home,’ a report said.
Indonesians were outraged in April when a Saudi court overturned the conviction of a Saudi woman who had been jailed for three years for allegedly torturing her Indonesian maid. Both nations seen their relationship heading a downward spiral since.