“An Eye for An Eye”

Setences in cases of retribution in Saudi Arabia have included eye-gouging, tooth extraction, and death in cases of murder.

A Saudi Arabian man named Ali Al-Khawahir was 14 when he stabbed and paralyzed his best friend 10 years ago. Al-Khawahir has been in prison ever since. He has recently been sentenced to be paralyzed if he cannot come up with one million Saudi Riyals ($266,000) in compensation to be paid to the victim.

Humans Rights group Amnesty International has condemned the Saudi court ruling as “outrageous.” In a statement issued Tuesday, the rights group called the punishment “torture,” adding that it “should on no account be carried out.”

The rights group calls this an example of a “qisas,” or retribution, case, adding that other sentences passed have included eye-gouging, tooth extraction, and death in cases of murder. The thought of such a punishment is utterly shocking, even in a context where flogging is frequently imposed as a punishment for some offenses, as happens in Saudi Arabia.

In cases such as this one, the victim calls the shots when it comes to punishing their attacker. The victim can demand the punishment be carried out, request financial compensation, or grant a conditional or unconditional pardon.

“If implemented, the paralysis sentence would contravene the U.N. Convention against Torture to which Saudi Arabia is a state party and the Principles of Medical Ethics adopted by the UN General Assembly,” Amnesty International said.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time a “paralysis as punishment” sentence has made headlines in Saudi Arabia. In 2010, local media reported the case of a 22-year-old man who was paralyzed in a fight. The victim in this case had subsequently requested paralysis as punishment for the man he had fought with. After the initial reports, the Saudi Ministry of Justice denied that paralysis had ever been considered as punishment in that particular case.

Is this taking the concept of “an eye for an eye” too far? Or do you think that Saudi Arabia has the right idea, and this kind of punishment should be permissible? How do you feel about giving the victim the power to choose the punishment for the perpetrator? What punishment would you choose if you were the one paralyzed?

Picture Source: Amnesty International

Article Source: CNN.com



  1. I definitely believe that this is taking “an eye for an eye” too far. Allowing the victim to choose the punishment seems to contravene the purpose of a legal system. Criminal statutes establish the minimum and maximum punishment that can be imposed upon a defendant, the jury is then responsible for determining, based on the particular facts of the case, the appropriate sentence for the defendant. By allowing the victim to determine the punishment the policy reasons, such as deterrence and rehabilitation, for punishing a defendant are lost and replaced with revenge. This appears to be more of a gang mentality then the foundations of a legal system.

    Instead, it should be left to a group of neutral third parties to determine how best to serve the victim and society. If it were me, I think my choice of punishment would be based on the ability of the defendant to pay. If the defendant was able to financially compensate me I think I would choose that first and if he/ she were unable to I would then choose to have the same injury inflicted upon the perpetrator.

  2. I agree with Zack that the sentencing and policy goes too far. Especially the policy allowing the victim to choose the extent of the punishment. The legal system requires an impartial third party to run effectively; otherwise the criminal will be subjected to a bias and unfair sentence. The entire reason that there is a legal system is to prevent society from returning to a “wild west” situation where everyone takes the law into their own hands and there is chaos.

    While I understand the concept of an “eye for an eye” as a way to make sure that the punishment fits the crime, it does not have to be followed literally! The ability to paralyze someone or gouge out their eye is a definite form of torture and should be banned. In the United States, the death penalty has seen a tremendous shift in order to lessen the chance the prisoner will feel pain or suffering, going from hanging to electrocution and now lethal injection. It is imperative that the international community intervene and stop this practice at once.

  3. While the concept of eye for an eye has existed for centuries, like Dan said, it need not be followed literally. A system such as the one in Saudi Arabia can lead to rash consequences. For instance, lets say two men get in a fight and one pushes the other. The other man trips over a railing and paralyzes himself. In this scenario, what began as a harmless fight with no intent to seriously injure, becomes a situation where the assailant could potentially be faced with paralysis himself. This is why in America we have lower consequences for things such as involuntary manslaughter vs. premeditated murder. Neutral third parties need to be the people deciding the consequences of crimes in order to protect from vengeful victims of crimes that may decide to overly punish or “torture” the people that hurt them. The practice is inherently risky and the international law community should intervene to help put it to a stop.

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