LETTER : Crime and punishment: Islamic law versus Western values

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The Independent Online
From Mr Mervyn Benford

Sir: The ambassador for Saudi Arabia, Dr Ghazi Algosaibi (Another View: "We will continue to execute," 10 October) offers a proper and well-argued affirmation of the character of Saudi Arabian society. Not everyone, even in the West, supposes "13 judges

One is the quality of the evidence available to those 13 judges and the access of the accused both to that evidence and to professionals capable of arguing the case it promotes. The second concerns the independence of a nation's judiciary from its executive. Would he comment further?

"The West" is not the homogeneous society he portrays, any more than we should suppose Arabs or Muslims to be. The West is made up of groups as disparate in their individuality as Swedes and Americans, French and New Zealanders. Each will criticise the other. Neither Communism nor nuclear physics, nor even Christianity, has united them. Each contains individuals ready and able to condemn our awesome propensity for war and weaponry. None would claim to be perfect but each would claim integrity and independence for its legal systems.

Yet even in that, each can be self-critical. Many Americans now question the integrity of a legal system whose outcomes are so evidently partial and in which the state and its judiciary, if not sanctioning the murder of people either known to be innocent or whose guilt is not sufficiently defined, have been too ready to turn the blind eye to those who do. Here in Britain society is shocked by corruption among police forces in this very matter of evidence. The issue remains not the process but the quality of justice, and of mercy.

Yours sincerely,

Mervyn Benford


10 October