Detested flogging as punishment abolished in Saudi Arabia

THE   Supreme Court of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the richest Sunni nation in the world, has abolished the condemnable punishment by flogging following opposition by human rights activists . Flogging very often extended to a hundred lashes resulted into the deaths of countless accused over the centuries. Saudi Arabia had been accused of a human rights violation  by the international community since King Salman named his son Prince Mohammed crown prince and heir to the throne in June 2017 and in  October 2018 alleged planned murder of vocal critic Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and increased repression of dissidents despite the prince’s commitment to modernise the economy and society dependent mostly on crude export. The Saudi supreme court said the latest reform was intended to “bring the kingdom into line with international human rights norms against corporal punishment”. Previously, the courts could order the flogging of convicts found guilty of offences ranging from extramarital sex and breach of the peace to murder. Henceforth following the court’s order, judges will have to choose between fines and/or jail sentences, or non-custodial alternatives like community service, the court said in a statement seen by AFP on Saturday. Saudi Supreme Court says the decision is part of reforms pushed by King Salman and his son Crown Prince Mohammed. Al Jazeera cited  Aliaa Abutayah, a London-based Saudi political activist and an opposition leader, saying  the latest change by the Saudi government in its penal code is a “very small change”. “If the Saudi government is serious about legal reform, they should start by releasing all of the political and human rights prisoners they have been holding in their prisons for years  and the government should also abolish the death penalty, including the practice of executing juveniles,” she added. Saudi judges are still empowered to order beheading of murderers and drug dealers, but lower-level offenders will now be spared the rod and will get fines or jail time instead, says The New York Times. Saudi officials hailed the move to abolish flogging, which was confirmed by the kingdom’s state-run human rights commission on Saturday, April 25 as another bold reform by Prince Mohammed. Western human rights campaigners, however, seemed to be not in a mood to thumps up the decision. The most high-profile instance of flogging in recent years was the case of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi who was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes in 2014 for “insulting” Islam. He was awarded the European parliament’s Sakharov human rights prize the following year. The abolition of corporal punishment in Saudi Arabia comes just days after the kingdom’s human rights record was again under the scanner of human rights activists following news of the death from a stroke in the custody of leading activist Abdullah al-Hamid, 69.Hamid was a founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) and was sentenced to 11 years in jail in March 2013, his camp followers claim. He was convicted of multiple charges, including “breaking allegiance” to the Saudi ruler, “inciting disorder” and seeking to disrupt state security(edited by PKC with inputs from varied sources).

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