A 19-year-old woman from Qatif, Saudi Arabia, was brutally attacked and gang raped by 7 men approximately 18 months ago, according to media reports. While seeking justice in her case, the woman was herself sentenced in October 2006 to 90 lashes for being in the company of an unrelated man at the time of the attack. She appealed this decision to a higher court, and the Qatif General Court announced on Wednesday November 14, 2007, that the victim’s sentence had been more than doubled to 200 lashes and 6 months in prison, a gross violation of human rights including the right to be free from discrimination and from torture and other cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment. Following this decision the rape victim’s lawyer had his license to practice revoked. While the courts have not clarified why the sentence was increased, media reports suggest that the harsher sentence for the rape victim and the confiscation of her lawyer’s license were directly related to their decision to speak with Saudi Arabian media about the injustice in this case. If true, this retaliation clearly violates the fundamental human right to freedom of expression.
Equality Now is calling on the Ministry of Justice of Saudi Arabia to immediately revoke this sentence of lashing and imprisonment of the rape victim, which is a travesty of justice. Equality Now is also calling on the Ministry to restore her legal representation by rescinding its decision to revoke the license of her lawyer. Taina Bien-Aimé, Executive Director stated, “This verdict by the Saudi Arabian court is blatantly discriminatory and violates several fundamental rights of the victim as well as her lawyer. We urge the Saudi Arabian authorities to undo this injustice immediately. They need to ensure that the victim is treated as a victim and not as a criminal. The international human rights community will continue to closely monitor the case and provide solidarity to advocates on the ground until the victim is safe from state sponsored violence and discrimination.”
Please contact the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington D.C, or in your country if not the US, as well as the State Department in the US or your country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Call on these officials to convey your concern over this injustice and to take whatever action is in their power to protect this Saudi rape victim from lashing and imprisonment. In the US, please contact:
Saudi Arabian Ambassador, Adel Al-Jubeir, in Washington D.C. at (202) 342-3800
Consulates General in: New York at (212) 752-2740, Los Angeles at (310) 479-6000, Houston (713) 785-5577