Saudi Arabia urged to stop public flogging

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Stephane Dujarric. UNPHOTO/Jean-Marc Ferré

Authorities in Saudi Arabia have been urged to stop public flogging of an online blogger and activist.

The appeal was made on Thursday by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein who said the practice is a form of cruel and inhuman punishment.

According to media reports Raef Badawi was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, 1,000 lashes and a fine of US$266,000 for starting a debate on his blog about the evolution of Saudi society.

UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric says Mr Badawi was publicly given 50 lashes last Friday and is reportedly due to be flogged every Friday until his sentence of 1,000 lashes has been fully carried out.

"The High Commissioner said that flogging is at the very least a form of cruel and inhuman punishment. Such punishment is prohibited under international human rights law, in particular the Convention against Torture, which Saudi Arabia has ratified. He appealed to the King of Saudi Arabia to exercise his power to halt the public flogging by pardoning Mr. Badawi, and to urgently review this type of extraordinarily harsh penalty." (24")

The UN human rights office notes that Badawi's case was one of a succession of prosecutions of civil society activists.

On Monday, an appeals court upheld the conviction of Badawi's lawyer and brother-in-law Waleed Abu Al-Khair on charges that include offending the judiciary and founding an unlicensed organisation.

Al-Khair's sentence was extended from 10 to 15 years on appeal.

Derrick Mbatha, United Nations

Duration:  1’37″

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