21 November 2007 Media Statement
NZ dismayed at Saudi rape victim’s sentence
Prime Minister Helen Clark said today that she has asked New Zealand diplomats to raise dismay over the sentencing of a 19-year-old Saudi rape victim.
“New Zealand fully respects the judicial system of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and notes that the case is still working its way through the courts,” Helen Clark said.
“Nonetheless I hope that justice will prevail and that the young woman, who is the victim in this case, will be shown leniency by the Saudi judiciary.
"I have asked the New Zealand Embassy in Riyadh to make appropriate representations to the relevant Saudi authorities, to work with like-minded embassies in raising our concerns, and to seek compassion for the young woman.
“I hope the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will demonstrate benevolence and compassion in this case.
“I am also concerned to ensure the woman receives appropriate legal assistance, given that her lawyer had his law license revoked last week,” Helen Clark said.
The Shi’ite woman and an unrelated man were abducted from a shopping mall in early 2006 and she was subsequently raped by a group of seven men.
She was originally sentenced in October 2006 to 90 lashes. That sentence was more than doubled to 200 lashes and six months in prison by the Qatif General Court.
The seven men convicted of raping the woman were also given increased sentences of between two to nine years in prison.
Under Saudi Arabia's strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law, women are not allowed in public in the company of men other than relatives.
The Saudi Government recently has taken some steps towards improving the situation of women in the Kingdom, including the establishment earlier this year of special courts to handle domestic abuse cases, adoption of a new labour law which addresses working women's rights and the creation of a Human Rights Commission.