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. Saudi Arabia’s law dictates that a male family member must accompany a woman at all times in public.
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”.
This unjust ruling creates grounds for perpetrators of sexual violence against women to continue their crime.
This verdict 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 Saudi Ministry of Justice said in a statement “The Ministry of Justice welcomes constructive criticism, away from emotions”.
Ironcially, in September 2014, the UN elected Saudi Arabia as a member of the Human Rights Council.
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.