Reported Saudi paralysis sentence 'outrageous,' rights group says
By Mohammed Jamjoom, CNN
updated 7:06 AM EDT, Wed April 3, 2013
(CNN) -- Rights group Amnesty International has condemned a reported Saudi court ruling sentencing a man to be paralyzed as retribution for having paralyzed another man as "outrageous."
In a statement issued Tuesday, the rights group called the punishment "torture," adding that it "should on no account be carried out."
Local media reports about the case surfaced over the weekend.
The Saudi Gazette, an English language daily paper, reported that Ali Al-Khawahir was 14 when he stabbed and paralyzed his best friend 10 years ago.
Al-Khawahir, who has been in prison ever since, has been sentenced to be paralyzed if he cannot come up with one million Saudi Riyals ($266,000) in compensation to be paid to the victim, the newspaper reported.
Saudi women allowed to ride bicycles
CNN cannot independently verify the reports.
"Paralyzing someone as punishment for a crime would be torture," said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa deputy director.
"That such a punishment might be implemented is utterly shocking, even in a context where flogging is frequently imposed as a punishment for some offenses, as happens in Saudi Arabia."
The rights group calls this an example of a "qisas," or retribution, case, adding that "other sentences passed have included eye-gouging, tooth extraction, and death in cases of murder.
"In such cases, the victim can demand the punishment be carried out, request financial compensation or grant a conditional or unconditional pardon."
Despite repeated attempts, the Saudi Justice Ministry could not be reached for comment on the case.
"If implemented, the paralysis sentence would contravene the U.N. Convention against Torture to which Saudi Arabia is a state party and the Principles of Medical Ethics adopted by the UN General Assembly," Amnesty International said.
This is not the first time a "paralysis as punishment" sentence has made headlines in Saudi Arabia.
In 2010, local media reported the case of a 22-year-old man who was paralyzed in a fight, saying he had subsequently requested paralysis as punishment for the man he'd fought with.
After the initial reports, the Saudi Ministry of Justice denied that paralysis had ever been considered as punishment in that case.
I think we have to first define the problem.
I believe that the primary function/objective of the criminal justice system is to keep us safe. To address that issue the perpetrator must be prevented from injuring anyone else. If that can be accomplished through incarceration then that is what I would do. The length of time and the conditions of incarceration present a more complex set of problems. Do we only want to punish or do we want to try to rehabilitate? In my opinion we should try to rehabilitate the perpetrator because one, that is more humane and two, if we can accomplish that it would be economically advantageous.
While I think that the victim should be considered I do not believe that vengeance should be the primary or even the secondary goal of the criminal justice system. I am human so I understand the desire for vengeance. I have felt that desire strongly at times but I recognize it as a base element that should not be nourished. I think it brings us all down so I try to resist the urge for vengeance.
I posted the article because it demonstrates how far the pursuit of vengeance can take us - that old eye for an eye.
That "eye for an eye" concept is an erroneous and stupid interpretation of the law.
If the perp cannot compensate the man he injured, then he could do time or better yet do time serving the man he injured, either directly as an aid or indirectly working to help support him.
I'm all for rehabilitation. A few things come to mind. The cost... what would it cost, and how do you rehabilitate someone who stabbed someone? The other thing is, there is no given that the perpetrator will fly the straight and narrow after rehabilitation. We know that the current jail situation does next to nothing when it comes to rehabilitation. Part of rehabilitation has to be the want to be rehabilitated. If we don't get that, I think criminals will do what they do now and jump through hoops in order to do their time. Then we often get reoffenders.
Restitution? I'm all for that as well. Should be mandatory, even. But it has to be realistic. Someone with the capability of earning $30,000 a year will never be able to pay $1,000,000 in damages or restitution without having to rely on the system again....
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