Saudi Arabia: Call for 13-year-old girl to be spared 90 lashes after mobile phone assault incident

Amnesty International has written to the Saudi Arabian authorities urging them to ensure that a 13-year-old girl is spared a punishment of public flogging for an assault on her teacher after a dispute over a banned mobile phone at her school.

The girl will reportedly receive 90 lashes in front of her classmates, as well as a two-month prison sentence, following her conviction at a court in the city of Jubail on Tuesday.

The full details of the charges against the girl are unclear, though it appears she allegedly assaulted her teacher after being caught in school with a mobile phone equipped with a camera. Such phones had been banned at the school.

Amnesty International interim Secretary General Claudio Cordone said:

“King ‘Abdullah Bin ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Al-Saud must intervene immediately to ensure that the flogging sentence is immediately rescinded.

“He must also take steps to reform Saudi Arabian law and criminal procedure to ban the use of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, in particular floggings of Children's rights.”

The mobile phone case follows a media report in December that the Saudi Arabian Minister of Interior had ordered that flogging sentences imposed on an elderly woman and two men for “khilwa” in March 2009 should be carried out. “Khilwa” is the offence of being caught alone in private with a member of the opposite sex who is not an immediate family member.

Khamisa Mohammed Sawadi, a 75-year-old Syrian woman, and one of the men were sentenced to 40 lashes and four months’ imprisonment. The other man was sentenced to 60 lashes and six months’ imprisonment by a court in the town of al-Shamli, north of Riyadh.

Claudio Cordone added:

“The criminalisation of ‘khilwa’ is a violation of the rights to freedom of expression and to privacy as set out in international human rights standards

 “The flogging sentences imposed on Khamisa Mohammed Sawadi and the two men sentenced with her should be rescinded.”
Flogging is mandatory in Saudi Arabia for a number of offences and can also be used at the discretion of judges as an alternative or in addition to other punishments.

Sentences can range from dozens to tens of thousands of lashes, and are usually carried out in batches, at intervals ranging from two weeks to one month. The highest number of lashes imposed in a single case recorded by Amnesty was 40,000 lashes. They were imposed in 2009 in a case of a man tried on murder charges.
 
The use of corporal punishments such as flogging violates the absolute prohibition against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment set out in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which Saudi Arabia is a state party.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has stated that “corporal punishment is inconsistent with the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

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