Editorial, The Dawn
April 28, 2020
TWO recent changes to the Saudi legal system point to the fact that the ultra-conservative desert kingdom is slowly taking steps to bring its laws in line with international human rights principles.
The Saudi supreme court had over the weekend announced that convicts would no longer be flogged; the punishment has been meted out to people for a range of crimes. Another development quotes the country’s Human Rights Commission as saying that capital punishment will no longer be given to those convicted of committing crimes while they were minors.
While observers would be right in asking what took the Saudis so long, considering the kingdom’s peculiar history and austere mores, this is progress nonetheless. The Saudi apex court was quoted as saying that the moves are part of “human rights advances” as per the vision of King Salman and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed, the real power behind the throne.
It is a fact that since his father ascended the throne in 2015, the crown prince has been trying to ‘remake’ Saudi Arabia as a nation for the modern era, shedding the austere Wahabi codes his own forebears put in place.
This has included giving women the right to drive, loosening gender segregation and allowing international entertainment events. Even a decade ago, most of these things would have been unthinkable in Saudi Arabia.
But the march to ‘progress’ also has a darker side, with Mohammed bin Salman accused of ruthlessly weeding out any dissent to his rule. Indeed, the crown prince has not even spared some of his closest relatives — blue-blooded members of the House of Saud — in his quest for ‘accountability’.
Legal and social reforms will be meaningless unless there is freedom of speech and expression in the kingdom; currently, even the vaguest criticism of the crown can land Saudis in hot water. Perhaps slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi is the most well-known victim of this ruthlessness. The legal changes are great, but there remains much to do before common Saudis can breathe freely.]
Original Headline: Saudi human rights
Source: Th Dawn, Pakistan