Saddam Hussein once made the unforgettable observation that law was two lines above his signature. One illustration of this has just occurred in Saudi Arabia. A nineteen year old woman from the town of al-Qatif was abducted and gang-raped by seven men. This November, she – the victim – was then punished for being in the company of men not members of her family. The sentence was six months in prison, and forty lashes, enough to kill a strong man, never mind her. She lost her appeal, and the clerics in charge of the court raised the punishment to 200 lashes. What kind of human beings can such clerics be? What kind of clerics?
This monstrous injustice raised a huge uproar of protest all round the globe. It is now the Muslim festival of Eid, and to mark the occasion the King of Saudi Arabia has the absolute prerogative to pardon criminals, and he has exercised it on behalf of the unfortunate woman who of course is no criminal. She appears to be free.
A second illustration of Saddam Hussein’s dictum comes from Dubai. There, a fifteen year old Swiss boy was abducted by some men, and raped. When the injured boy went to the police to report this crime, he – again, the victim – was arrested for homosexuality, a punishable offence in Dubai. The boy’s mother is a well-known Swiss journalist, and she at once began a press campaign, publicising another monstrous injustice. In the end, the ruling authority has discharged the boy, and the rapists have received lengthy prison sentences.
The ruler has only to sign under a couple of lines, and hey presto, that’s law, that’s how to right a wrong. If we in the West protest loudly enough, then, we can shame cruel and unjust men into behaving in a civilised manner – sometimes, at least. That is worth bearing in mind.