Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Washington Post Article about Blood-Money in Saudi Arabia

Faiza Saleh Ambah, whose articles I generally recommend, wrote an informative article entitled "Saudis Face Soaring Blood-Money Sums."

I posted this comment on the Washington Post web site:
Several of the comments display a misunderstanding of the qisas ("retaliation") system prescribed by shariah. While richer criminals certainly have the means to pay larger amounts of blood money, it is the discretion of the victim's family to exact punishment, accept the money or forgive. In addition, as the article clearly states, the Saudi state can impose additional punishments, and certain types of crimes (usually attacks on public order and safety, such as the 9/11 attacks and armed robbery) are not subject to the qisas system and are instead crimes which the government is responsible for handling.

There are always flaws in any system of criminal justice because human beings who implement them are flawed. As the article discusses, some people in Saudi Arabia are comparing the blood money amounts among tribes and lineages in a type of “competing with the Jones” way.

I think one positive feature of the qisas system is that the victim's family has more say in the disposal of the case. I know a friend in Knoxville who was tormented by the return of his brother’s murderer from prison to live on his same street. Perhaps if his family had gone through the process of deciding the murderer’s fate, then he would not have this continued pain. I don’t know.

It would be interesting if there were any studies comparing the psychological and social "outcomes" of criminal justice for victims of crimes in different countries.

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