A court in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has sentenced a woman who was gang-raped by seven men to 200 lashes and six months in jail after being found guilty of speaking to the media about the crime and indecency.
According to the account of the story reported by the Middle East Monitor, the 19-year-old Shia woman was in the car of a student friend when two men got into the vehicle and drove them to a secluded area, where she was raped by the seven men.
She was initially sentenced to 90 lashes for being in a car of a man who was not related to her. Commentators say Saudi Arabia’s law dictates that a male family member must accompany a woman at all times in public.
The Press TV reports that the rapists were surprisingly sentenced to five years in prison. And it is unclear why the rapists were handed this light sentence, considering the fact that they could have faced the death penalty.
Lawyer for the woman, Abdul Rahman al-Lahem, appealed to the Saudi General Court after the sentence was handed down. However, the court reviewed the sentence, increasing it to 200 lashes. The court held that the woman had spoken to the media. The lawyer was also banned from the case; his license was confiscated, and was summoned to a disciplinary hearing.
After this new ruling, court officials said in a statement published on the official Saudi Press Agency“For whoever has an objection on verdicts issued, the system allows to appeal without resorting to the media”.
The verdict has been criticized by a number of activists and human rights organizations around the world. Human Rights Watch condemned the ruling, saying it creates grounds for perpetrators of sexual violence against women to continue their crime.
“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”, the organization said in a statement.
But the Kingdom replied such criticisms, faulting the woman for going out without a male family member.
The Saudi Ministry of Justice said in a statement “The Ministry of Justice welcomes constructive criticism, away from emotions”.
In September 2014, the United Nations (UN) elected Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the UN, Faisal Trad as the new Chairman for the UN Human Rights Council Panel.
The UN Watch, a non-governmental watchdog organization based in Geneva, urged the US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power and EU foreign minister, Federica Mogherini to speak against, and lobby for the appointment to be reversed due to Saudi Arabia’s poor human rights record.
“It is scandalous that the UN chose a country that has beheaded more people this year than ISIS to be head of a key human rights panel. Petro-dollars and politics have trumped human rights. Saudi Arabia has arguably the worst record in the world when it comes to religious freedom and women’s rights, and continues to imprison the innocent blogger Raif Badawi”,the organization said.