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04/27/2020 Saudi Arabia (International Christian Concern) – The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s general commission for the supreme court has issued a decision which has abolished flogging as a form of punishment. The decision was made earlier this month and is meant to be replaced by prison sentences and/or fines. Previously, flogging was applied towards a variety of crimes in the Kingdom which were addressed through Sharia Islamic law, something which leads to inconsistencies in how crimes are addressed. Prisoners of conscience have often been the target of floggings in Saudi Arabia.

The decision has been welcomed by many within the international community, although several were quick to point out that the abolishment of floggings should have occurred years ago. The publication of this decision follows the highly criticized death of an imprisoned and founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association. Human rights criticisms regarding the Kingdom have grown since Mohammed Bin Salman was named crown prince and heir to the throne in June 2017.

The abolishment of corporal punishment is good news for prisoners of conscience and others facing sentencing. But the culture of uniformity which the Kingdom seeks to impose upon its citizens continues. Free speech is a significant issue, as the Kingdom seeks to silence all critics. The strict application of Islam in Saudi Arabia has left the church the most deeply underground in the Middle East region. Flogging punishments may be abolished, but until Saudi Arabia allows diversity and freedom of conscience, the church will remain deeply hidden throughout the country.

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