22 November 2007

Rape victim jailed and punished by Saudi court

Saudi Arabia is a country where gross human rights violations occur. Issues like prisoners of conscience and political prisoners, abolishment of freedom of expression and association, women's rights violations, abuses of migrant workers (by state authorities and by private employers), torture and ill-treatment, corporal punishments, body mutilations and the death penalty are common abuses.

In October 2006, a 19 year old woman met a male friend in his car, after which they were attacked by a gang of seven men who allegedly raped them both several times. As the victims reported the occurrence to the police, they were both sentenced to 90 lashes of the whip, for "illegal mingling".

Strictly following the Islamic Sharia law, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where a woman cannot leave the house without written permission from her closest male relative. Among many other things they are also not allowed to drive, and have been banned from voting...

The 19 year-old woman, revolted with the situation spoke out in public about her case in an attempt to seek justice. As a response, last week, in November 14, the same court decided to increase her sentence to 6 months in prison and 200 lashes of the whip because of “her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media”. The court also harassed her lawyer, banning him from the case and confiscating his professional license.

Human Rights Watch called on King Abdullah to immediately void the verdict and drop all charges against the rape victim and to order the court to end its harassment of her lawyer.

“A courageous young woman faces lashing and prison for speaking out about her efforts to find justice,” said Farida Deif, researcher in the women’s rights division of Human Rights Watch. “This verdict not only sends victims of sexual violence the message that they should not press charges, but in effect offers protection and impunity to the perpetrators.”

Despite all of these facts, Saudi Arabia remains a key ally of the US and Britain's biggest trading partner in the Middle East.

In fact, a recent a lucrative new defence contract between Saudi Arabia and the UK made clear that it was business as usual between the two countries. In the end of October King Abdullah paid a state visit to Britain, having been a guest of the Queen at Buckingham Palace and having had a ceremonial welcome on Horse Guards Parade...

Rape victim punished for speaking out, Human Rights Watch
Saudi court punishes rape victim, Al Jazeera English
Report 2007: Saudi Arabia, Amnesty International
Saudi Human Rights Center

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