Saudi Arabia: Authorities must not deliberately paralyze man as punishment

Press Release
August 20, 2010

Saudi Arabia: Authorities must not deliberately paralyze man as punishment

Amnesty International Urges Saudi Arabia Not to Deliberately Paralyze Man as Punishment

August 20, 2010

Amnesty International today urged the Saudi Arabian authorities not to deliberately paralyze a man in retribution for similar injuries he allegedly caused during a fight.

"We urge the Saudi Arabian authorities not to carry out such a punishment, which amounts to nothing less than torture. While those guilty of a crime should be held accountable, intentionally paralyzing a man in this way would constitute torture, and be a breach of its international human rights obligations,”" said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, acting director of the Middle East and North Africa Program.

Reports say a court in Tabuk, in the northwest of the country, had approached a number of hospitals about the possibility of cutting the man's spinal cord to carry out the punishment of qisas (retribution), as requested by the injured victim.

One hospital reportedly said it would be possible to medically administer the injury at the same place on the spinal cord as the damage the man is alleged to have caused his victim using a cleaver during a fight more than two years ago, causing similar paralysis.

The court may decide not to impose the paralysis punishment and could instead sentence the man to imprisonment, financial compensation, or flogging.

The man, whose name has not been made public, was sentenced to seven months in prison after being tried without legal assistance.

Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment are absolutely prohibited under international law and violates the United Nations Convention against Torture to which Saudi Arabia is a state party.

Saudi Arabia regularly sentences people to various forms of corporal punishment.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters, activists and volunteers who campaign for universal human rights from more than 150 countries. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.