Saudi Arabia’s supreme court has announced abolishing flogging as a form of punishment.
The court said on Saturday that the “human rights advances” are part of reforms pushed by King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz and his son, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman MBS.
Court-ordered floggings in Saudi Arabia – sometimes extending to hundreds of lashes – have long drawn condemnation from human rights groups.
The Saudi supreme court said the latest reform was intended to “bring the kingdom into line with international human rights norms against corporal punishment”.
Previously the courts could order the flogging of convicts found guilty of offences ranging from extramarital sex and breach of the peace to murder.
In future, judges will have to choose between fines and/or jail sentences, or non-custodial alternatives like community service, the court said in a statement released on Saturday.
Flogging, whipping or canning is common in countries where authorities have adopted Sharia Law, and the punishment is administered in public.
The offences range from gambling to alcohol, adultery and public displays of intimacy outside of marriage, driving… if you’re a woman, insulting Islam through electronic channels, being gay, dressing indecently etc.
The most high-profile instance of flogging in recent years was the case of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes and then re-sentenced to 10 years and 1,000 lashes in 2014 for blogging about free speech and “insulting Islam”.