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On the State and Human Rights ... Once a Difference Is Made!

On the State and Human Rights ... Once a Difference Is Made!

Saturday, 2 May, 2020 - 12:00

Sometimes, we gloss over the news, decisions and events, hearing or reading about them without taking a moment to reflect on their significance. However, once we do, we may find that they resonate and are of great consequence. An example of such decisions, described as bold and demonstrating qualitative advances, was that recently announced in Saudi Arabia as a step in its path to reform, canceling tazir capital punishment for minors [tazir punishments are those that are set by Islamic Law and are at the discretion of the state], and replacing it with a prison sentence of no longer than 10 years in a social observation home [juvenile detention facility]. Floggings for tazir crimes have also been canceled and are to be replaced with prison time, a fine, both or an alternative punishment, such as community service.

The desire for justice, since the era of primitive societies to the present day, has always dominated social consciousness; people have always strived to have clean consciences and to be true to their convictions. In order to arrive at justice, there must be a will to do so, and this is what drives the sublimity of human civilization. Historic decrees that have been taken have shortened both time and distance. They were preceded by major decrees and will be followed by others that are a culmination of dozens of years of effort and money invested in enhancing Saudi Arabia's reputation and its high status in international forums.

They were issued, not out of obedience to anyone, but as another step in the journey toward a state of law and institutions and toward broader horizons. The decree, naturally, goes beyond its content considering the manner in which its legal and penal dimensions will shape our society and the positive cultural and social effects it will have.

These human rights decrees confirm the Saudi leadership’s determination to achieve the aspirations of citizens and residents, and the fact that the state is always a step ahead of society in its reform efforts, and that balanced modernization, so long as it makes peoples’ lives more dignified and protects their rights, is its approach.

We have surpassed the stage where we were too sensitive to discussions of our concerns and issues; thus, it was logical that our experiences would accumulate, and this is what this remarkable step on the noble path to social and cultural maturity demonstrates.

Saudi Arabia has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which defines children as those younger than 18 years of age, abolished the flogging as a tazir punishment, made sentences consistent and canceled unjustified exaggerated punishments. The decree is resonating all over the world, with the international media celebrating and welcoming it, not to flatter us, but out of a genuine appreciation for the real transformations taking place in our country.

Of course, there is no country in the world in which no human rights violations are committed (even if they were the result of an individual’s judge's ruling, or even in simple matters), including developed countries that have made qualitative leaps in terms of the development of their economies and constitutional institutions, and where all kinds of freedoms are granted. However, the standards and the degree to which the human rights principles are adhered to and applied vary from one country to another. Mature states, even among those that are “developing”, are taking the initiative to rectify their shortcomings, looking for ways to make their people happy and provide them with dignified lives.

The point is not to praise and tribute to what is unfolding in the Kingdom, however much it deserves them; rather, it is to objectively describe it and communicate an unedited image of it. Thus, it is moving on a path with a clear vision and plan, maintaining its calm and ignoring perverse noises despite all of the clamor and the danger of what is happening and the defamation. It is also determined to make its local law comply with international standards without undermining divine texts or the state’s fundamental principles. For these reasons, it is normal that all kinds of local laws and systems are revised and scrutinized.

Saudi Arabia is making real reforms and not just cosmetic improvements as some human rights organizations are saying, organizations that are never satisfied with anything. It was expected that these organizations (if they had credibility and principle) would welcome this step in Saudi Arabia, but the suspicions and sarcasm that have we seen and their flimsy justifications put a question mark on the truth behind these organizations’ affiliations and their permanently negative and objective position towards Saudi Arabia.

These decrees are related to an internal decision and not foreign pressure, considering that they have been there but have been ignored for years as there was always official and popular refusal of impositions and pressures, in addition to other factors that are not within the scope of our discussion here. The truth is that there is diligent work and extensive revisions done by the government. There are many expert and diverse committees that restlessly meet to make recommendations, suggestions, visions and studies, led by a youth that possesses a political will and is capable of making difficult decisions. These committees have seen that the general atmosphere and the current historical moment and social consciousness is capable of comprehending and understanding such human rights steps that are to the benefit of humanity.

The Human Rights Bill has been exploited by certain sides, bodies and countries ever since the Kingdom was established. It is also noteworthy that the Crown Prince’s modernizing project has frustrated the slogans and talks that they have always regurgitated as they no longer have anything to say or promote and are therefore now in a dilemma.

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