Just Another Guy with Opinions

Rape Victim Punished More Severely

Posted by shadmia on November 22, 2007


In most societies the ideals of justice and fairness are ingrained and upheld by laws written to protect the innocent and punish the guilty. It is generally left to the courts to decided innocence or guilt. Lawyers defend their clients, prosecutors try to prove guilt and judges (and in some cases juries) decide on the merits of the case and make a decision based on the law of the land. There may be extenuating circumstances that mitigate a sentence if a guilty verdict is declared but the idea is to be fair in making a judgment after considering all the facts…….in most societies.

The ideals of justice and fairness took a back seat in one recent case in Saudi Arabia. However before continuing one should always be mindful that various societies have laws and customs that may seem strange and even antiquated by western values, but nevertheless the semblance of what is fair and just should be the goal of any society that respects and protects its citizens. In my opinion, colored by those “western values”, what happened in this case was neither fair nor just.

A young married woman met with an male acquaintance of hers in order to retrieve some pictures he had of her. They were abducted by seven men who gang-raped both her and her male friend. At the trial the men were given sentences ranging between ten months and five years and 80 to 1,000 lashes each. She and her friend were each given a sentence of 90 lashes. The ruling according to Saudi Arabia’s strict reading of Islamic law, blamed the woman for being alone with an unrelated man.

She appealed. The judges responded by increasing the sentences of the rapists to 2 to 9 years. But they also increased her sentence to 200 lashes and 6 months in jail. The judges accused the woman of trying to use the media to influence them. Her lawyer Abdel Rahman al-Lahem, protested:

“Their argument was that it was the girl’s fault in the first place that (the rape) happened and none of that would have happened if she had not met up with the non-related male friend,” said Al-Lahem

“My client is the victim of this abhorrent crime. I believe her sentence contravenes the Islamic Sharia law and violates the pertinent international conventions,” he said. “The judicial bodies should have dealt with this girl as the victim rather than the culprit.”

The attorney was barred from practicing law after authorities confiscated his license. He faces a disciplinary hearing.

“Basic Islamic law states that an appeal shall not harm the person appealing,” al-Lahem told the English-language paper Arab News. “Once this rule is ignored, then people who appeal verdicts are only left terrorized. From now on people will be apprehensive to appeal fearing they might be punished or have their sentences doubled. That’s exactly what’s happened to the rape victim, who only wanted justice.”

In the meantime the U.S. expressed “astonishment” at the sentence the young woman received. Sean McCormack, State Department spokesman, stopped short of stronger language against its close ally in the Middle East:

“I think when you look at the crime and the fact that now the victim is punished, I think that causes a fair degree of surprise and astonishment,” McCormack said. “But it is within the power of the Saudi government to take a look at the verdict and change it.”

In response Saudi Arabia is defending the controversial court decision. The Kingdom’s official news agency, the Saudi Press Agency published a Justice Ministry statement reiterating that charges against the woman were proven and criticizing media coverage of the case. It also repeated the judges’ attack against Lahem last week, saying he had “spoken insolently about the judicial system and challenged laws and regulations”.


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