EU "dismayed" at Saudi beheading of Sri Lankan maid

The European Union expressed dismay Thursday that Saudi Arabia had beheaded a Sri Lankan maid convicted of murdering her employer's baby, despite repeated appeals for a stay of execution.

"I am deeply dismayed by the information that Sri Lankan national Ms. Rizana Nafeek was executed," EU foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton said in a statement.

"On numerous occasions, the EU had called for the execution to be commuted and had asked the authorities to exercise all their powers in order to grant her relief from the death penalty," Ashton said.

The maid "was most probably a minor at the time of the crime," she added.

Nafeek was executed Wednesday after she was found guilty of smothering the baby following an argument with the child's mother, her employer, the Saudi interior ministry said in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency.

Human rights groups said Nafeek was 17 at the time of the offense and that Saudi Arabia was one of just three countries in the world to impose the death penalty for crimes committed as a minor.

"I recognise the serious nature of the crime involved and express my sincere sympathy to the family of the victim. However, I do not believe that their loss has been mitigated by Nafeek's death," Ashton said.

"The EU opposes the use of capital punishment in all cases and under all circumstances and calls for a global moratorium as a first step towards its universal abolition.

"Capital punishment represents an irreversible loss of human life," she said.

The maid "was most probably a minor at the time of the crime."