International Law

Saudi Moral Police to be Tried in Deaths

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Deaths of two suspects in the custody of Saudi Arabia’s Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice during the past two months have resulted in public announcements that four officers alleged to be responsible would be charged and tried.

“This is the first time that any member of the commission is adjudicated publicly. Maybe members were fired or reprimanded by government officials before, but this is the first time it’s done in public and not swept under the rug,” Bassim Alim, a human rights lawyer, told the Washington Post. “This is a confirmation that the commission is not above and beyond the law.”

One of the two deceased suspects was accused of having a substantial amount of alcohol in his home, and the other allegedly invited a woman into his car. Both alcohol consumption and social interaction between opposite-sex adults who are not close family members are forbidden by the Islamic country’s strict moral code, which the religious police enforce.

The moral code, which is evidenced in daily life, for example, by heavily veiled women who are legally banned from driving–and, at the other end of the scale, a daring Jeddah nightclub that doesn’t of course serve alcohol but allows social mingling among the sexes–is controversial, reports Forbes magazine. Some contend the moral code is too harsh, while others believe it should be more strictly enforced.

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