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February 7, 2006

An international perspective on sentencing disparity

I rarely cover international sentencing developments; I can hardly keep up with all the domestic stories.  Nevertheless, this article from Arab News in Saudi Arabia caught my eye with its headline, "Lack of Clear Guidelines Irks Lawyers, Defendants."  Here are some snippets from a fascinating piece:

Reprimanding sentences, which are usually in the form of jail time or flogging or both, are passed based on the judge's jurisprudence and discretion, and herein lies the problem.  For many lawyers, human rights advocates, religious scholars, the lack of codification and regulations upon which to refer when sentencing people for misdemeanors and disputes, makes the Saudi judicial system arbitrary and discriminatory.

Except for certain crimes such as murder, burglary and adultery, Islam does not specify the punishment to be handed to perpetrators for a whole range of crimes, from domestic violence to commercial fraud and drinking alcohol....

Unfortunately, while some judges are lenient others are very severe. The Shoura Council has previously discussed the issue and recommended establishing a codified system for reprimanding sentences as a reference for judges. At a press conference recently, Justice Minister Abdullah Al-Asheikh said that his ministry was directed by the king to put a framework for punitive and reprimanding sentences.

Highly publicized cases such as Nour Miyati's, the Indonesian maid who was sentenced to 79 lashes because she changed her testimony against her sponsor accusing him of torture, or that of teacher Muhammad Al-Harbi, sentenced to 750 lashes for disrespecting Islam, have raised questions on the judges' judgments.  While Miyati's sentence is being appealed and Al-Harbi received a royal pardon, there are many others who are imprisoned and flogged for similarly unsupported or minor accusations.

Related posts on international concerns about sentencing disparity:

February 7, 2006 at 08:19 PM | Permalink

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