RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has abolished flogging as a punishment, the state human rights commission said on Saturday, hailing a major step forward in the reform programme.
The court-ordered floggings in Saudi Arabia – sometimes extending to hundreds of lashes – have long drawn worldwide condemnation. The state human rights commission said that the latest reform would ensure that no more convicts were sentenced to flogging.
“This decision guarantees that convicts who would previously have been sentenced to the lash will from now on receive fines or prison terms instead,” the commission’s chairman, Awad al-Awad, said. “This reform is a momentous step forward in Saudi Arabia’s human rights agenda, and merely one of many recent reforms in the kingdom,” he added.
Saudi media also reported seeing a document from the kingdom’s Supreme Court. “The decision is an extension of the human rights reforms introduced under the direction of King Salman and the direct supervision of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman,” the document said.
Previously, the courts had powers to order the flogging of convicts found guilty of offences ranging from extramarital relations and breach of the peace to murder. Now judges will have to choose between fines and jail sentences, or non-custodial alternatives like community service.
Flogging has been applied to punish a variety of crimes in Saudi Arabia. Other forms of corporal and capital punishment, such as amputation for theft or beheading for murder and terrorism offences, have not yet been outlawed.
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 on charges of insulting Islam and cyber security.
The abolition of corporal punishment in Saudi Arabia comes just days after the kingdom’s human rights record was again in the spotlight following news of the death from a stroke in custody of leading activist Abullah al-Hamid. Saudi authorities put a record 184 people to death last year, according to figures released by Amnesty International.
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