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Opinion: Pardoning Murderers in the Gulf - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Yet another sickening narrative in the world of crime has brought up an old question: Isn’t it about time we reconsidered provisions in some Gulf countries that allow criminals to be released and escape punishment as a result of a pardon from the victim’s family? Doesn’t society also have the right to punish this criminal—a right that as important as that of the victim’s family?

Five years ago, four men killed an Ethiopian maid in a Gulf country. The police described the incident as “one of the most sickening crimes of assault and rape” ever witnessed in the region. The Ethiopian girl, in her 20s, was found with her head smashed, stabbed in several parts of her body, and also bearing marks of strangulation.

The horrific extent of the crime clearly shows the perpetrators are violent criminals who must be tried without any pity whatsoever. The Ethiopian girl had arrived in the Gulf country three months prior to her death, and was found dead after her employer reported she was missing.

Investigations revealed that the crime did not happen spontaneously, but was actually planned and carried out by four perpetrators. Criminality is in their blood and it actually turned out that one of the defendants had committed a terrible crime in the past. Twelve years before this incident, he was convicted—along with two other men—of abducting a 13-year-old Pakistani girl and killing her in the same atrocious manner in which he killed the Ethiopian girl. The court sentenced all three men to death. Two of them were executed while the other man—who later participated in the killing of the Ethiopian girl—escaped execution after the girl’s family pardoned him. He then committed another similar crime and received another pardon from execution following a decision by the victim’s family.

We hope that those in charge of the judiciary reconsider this practise. How can people who commit premeditated murder escape the maximum penalty? How can they escape any severe punishment after spending a few years in jail and then getting released just because the victim’s family pardoned them? What about the society’s right—isn’t there a purpose to punishment in the Shari’a? Isn’t it the judicial institution’s duty to bring about justice, to help protect the innocent, and deter those who are evil from committing their heinous crimes? Releasing the criminal who participated in killing the Pakistani girl a few years after jailing him is what led to him committing the second crime of murdering the Ethiopian girl.

There is a private right and a public right when considering major crimes. The private right is that of the victim’s family, who have the right to pardon the killer. But we cannot rule out the possibility that this pardon might result from fear of the criminal and his family or perhaps even greed due to the blood money that is sometimes offered, and which can reach into the millions. However, even an honest concession of this private right must not make the authorities deny the public right’s to punishing criminals. Jailing a defendant who intentionally kills an innocent person for only five or 10 years makes this killer equal to someone who has committed a much lesser crime.

This leniency has made criminals look to the pardon of the family’s victim as a way to save them from the death penalty. Crimes have become widespread in number and so sickening in their extent that the justice system must become stricter than it currently is. Victim’s families must also be less lenient when giving out pardons, and severe punishment should last no less than 30 years. This is how things should be in order to bring about justice, protect society, and distinguish between, say, a mere thief and a calculated, cold-blooded killer.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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