JEDDAH – As per the Saudi legal system which is based on Shariah law, acceptable punishments given by local courts to convicts include flogging sentences.
Lashes are commonly combined with imprisonment and are inflicted over a set period in a public place. There are also rare cases in which women convicts are sentenced to flogging. When this happens, the international media unleashes a malicious campaign against the Kingdom.
Detractors lambast this as a cruel form of punishment that involves physical and psychological torture.
Okaz/Saudi Gazette examined the real nature of this punishment and what rules and regulations are observed while carrying out flogging .
The report was prepared on the basis of comments from legal experts and judicial officials, in addition to personal accounts of how lashes are given out to convicts.
Saudi courts hand out flogging punishments in cases involving both public and private rights.
In the case of men, local courts order flogging to be carried out either in public places or inside a jail compound. This depends on the nature of the crime and discretion of the judge.
As far as women convicts are concerned, public floggings are banned and they are strictly carried out inside prison walls.
Representatives of the court, governorate and the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice are present to witness a flogging and a report is prepared on the way it was carried out.
In the Shariah, flogging is considered as an exemplary punishment and it has little to do with inflicting any physical harm.
The Criminal Procedure Law stipulates that the flogger should hold a book firmly under one armpit and the book should not fall while he carries out the punishment. This means that lashes are light and symbolic in nature as they seek to give a moral and psychological lesson.
Taking pictures of public executions and floggings is prohibited and if someone is found to be doing this, charges are brought up and the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution carries out an investigation into the matter.
Prominent lawyer and legal consultant Khaled Al-Seraihi said that there are restrictions in carrying out floggings as in the case of those who are physically weak.
“Their punishment should be delayed until their physical condition improves,” he said.
“A man under the influence of alcohol cannot be flogged until he sobers up.
Similarly, flogging of a pregnant woman should be delayed until after delivery and that of a sick man until his recovery,” Al-Seraihi added.
In Jeddah, some 70-100 flogging verdicts are handed down on a daily basis.
Corrections officers are usually in charge of flogging. There are about 10 corrections officers in Jeddah who are qualified to carry out floggings – the senior most among them has nearly 30 years of experience in the field.
Convicts receive lashes over their clothes but they are not allowed to wear heavy clothes or multiple layers. If the convict has a medically-certified skin condition, his sentence is delayed. In such cases, a medical report is submitted to the judge and he takes action accordingly.
In Islam, flogging comes under the purview of “Tazir” refers to punishment, usually corporal, in minor crimes that can be administered at the discretion of a “Qadi” or a judge because there is no mention of them in the Qur’an as opposed to “Hudud” crimes, for which there are fixed punishments stated in the Qur’an.
Noted lawyer and legal consultant Saleh Al-Ghamdi, who is also former member of the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution, said judges order flogging in both “Hudud” and “Tazir” cases.
“In ‘Tazir’ cases, the punishment can be waived off with an order from the ruler but in the case of ‘Hudud,’ the order to flog, as in the case of adultery committed by an unmarried man and consumption of liquor, should be carried out,” he said.
Flogging verdicts carried out recently in the city include lashes given out to a young man who was found guilty of harassing his mother. He was sentenced to one year in prison and 600 lashes.
Other examples of flogging include: A 40-year-old leader of cellphone theft ring who was flogged in front of the city’s major cellphone market on Palestine St.; two corrections officers received 40 lashes each for their involvement in illegal activities in the prison; a secondary school student, convicted of assaulting another student, was flogged in front of his school; a gang convicted of brewing liquor also received lashes in a public place.