Tuesday, 20 November 2007
By Suzan Zawawi
WITH cases such as "Qatif Girl's" rape case, judicial reform couldn't come at a better time.
Last week, the Qatif General Court re-sentenced the Saudi young woman dubbed by Saudi media as "Qatif Girl" to 180 lashes and a jail term, doubling her first sentence after being gang-raped 14 times within two hours by seven convicted men. The court found the girl guilty of being in the company of a non-relative male during her abduction at knifepoint, a year-and-a-half ago.
Apparently, the three judges presiding over the case didn't believe that being raped 14 times was sufficient punishment for the girl who attempted suicide after the rape.
Upon appealing to the courts against the first sentence of 90 lashes, "Qatif Girl" hoped that she would be able to gain back a fraction of her dignity that was lost that horrifying night.
But that didn't happen, the same judge who presided over in the first case, doubled her sentence along with the rapist.
If the girl's soul didn't die that night her innocence was surely violated last Wednesday.
"Qatif girl's dream of redeeming any of her self-respect through the judicial system was crushed in front of her own eyes.
Qatif court's message is loud and clear, girls and women who are raped could face punishment, and if they attempt to appeal they might face the same sentence as ‘Qatif Girl' and if you are a lawyer defending your client to the best of your ability, you might be thrown out of court, have your license confiscated and a ban from defending your client.
Judicial reform, which King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, called upon, couldn't come at a better time.
Not only are women, but men and children are also suffering from an un-codified system, leaving judges to rule on cases according to their own interpretation and understanding of Shariah law.
A case decided in one court might be adjudicated differently in a different court, according to the judge.
The second ruling on ‘Qatif Girl' couldn't come at a worse time as the world media is currently focusing on Saudi Arabia, the host of OPEC meeting.
The enormous efforts exerted by both Saudi women and the government in empowering Saudi women in all fields have been overshadowed by the court ruling.
Could the judge in Qatif be so oblivious to the outcome of such rulings, whether to the rape victim, other sexually abused women and Saudi Arabia's image abroad?