Justice For Nazia Bi And Sana Majid Ali
On 4 July 2002, Southall Black Sisters (SBS) will challenge a Coroner's decision not to hold an inquest or recognise SBS as an interested third party in the case of Nazia Bi and her two-year old daughter, Sana Majid Ali. Nazia and Sana were killed in a house fire in a locked bedroom in Bradford in March 1999. Moments before her death, Nazia had made a call to the emergency services and said '..my husband burned me, please help me' On an earlier occasion, Nazia had informed the police that she was due to leave her husband, who was also her first cousin. She alleged domestic violence.
The challenge seeks to establish an important legal precedent. Groups like SBS should have the right to intervene in cases like that of Nazia Bi in order to help establish a history of violence and abuse which can result in suicide or the death of a woman in what are often suspicious circumstances. Suicide rates amongst Asian women in this country are up to three times than women nationally and in most cases, the reasons are to do with domestic violence and cultural constraints which silences them. Domestic violence is also often the cause of female homicide, sometimes justified as an "honour killing". Yet in many of the cases, the perpetrators and those who legitimate violence against women escape moral (and often legal) responsibility for their actions. In these contexts, an inquest hearing is crucial because it is often the only forum for the proper public scrutiny of the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Asian women.
Nazia's husband was charged with murder. The criminal case, however, was initially dismissed by a Magistrates Court on the basis of insufficient evidence. The police appealed the Magistrates decision and the case was reopened. In July 2000, the Crown Court too dismissed the case on the same grounds. There are, however, serious concerns about the basis on which the criminal trial collapsed and whether, taken as a whole, the criminal proceedings were sufficient to discharge the obligations of the UK under Article 2 (Right to Life) of the European Convention of Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). For example, the judge excluded the crucial tape recorded message on the basis of allegations made by witnesses that Nazia intended to burn her husband's furniture/the house. However, these witnesses were never called to test their credibility or the accuracy of their statements.
Prior to the criminal trial, the West Yorkshire Coroner's Court opened an Inquest but after the collapse of the prosecution, he refused to resume it, stating that the family of the deceased, including the husband, did not wish to hold an inquest, despite submissions made by SBS that it was in the public interest to do so. It appears that the family and the wider Asian community closed ranks, not wanting a public hearing. The Coroner has refused to recognise SBS as "interested persons." But in such cases, interventions by Asian women's organisations, on behalf of one of the most marginalised groups in our society, is vital in the interest of justice. Above all, a successful intervention can highlight the need for an adequate community and state response which can protect women from violence, preventing suicide or homicide and honour killings.
We need you to attend the hearing and show your support by packing out the public gallery on 4 July at 10AM OR 2PM at The Royal Court of Justice, the Strand, London
Please check with court listings (no. CO/1187/02) or SBS the day before for exact time and courtroom.
Please Send Donations- We desperately need funds to meet legal costs
Make cheques payable to Southall Black Sisters
For further information, contact:
Southall Black Sisters
52 Norwood Road
Tel: 020 8571 9595
Fax: 020 8574 6781