Saudi anti-harassment law put to test

Saudi anti-harassment law put to test
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With the Saudi anti-sexual harassment law put into effect, sexual offenders should not have to think many times before attacking their prey. (Shutterstock image)
Saudi anti-harassment law put to test
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The alleged harasser in Alkhobar. (Screen grab from YouTube video)
Updated 13 May 2019

Saudi anti-harassment law put to test

Saudi anti-harassment law put to test
  • Videos that went viral on social media resulted in the arrest of two men in 24 hours

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s relatively new anti-harassment law was put to the test in the past week, with two separate incidents that were publicized online, resulting in the arrests of the offenders, both in their 20s, within a 24-hour period. 

The first took place on Wednesday night in Alkhobar, where a woman was sexually and verbally harassed as she was driving her car. 

The woman recorded the incident as the man threatened to open the car door if she did not get out. “I want you, get out,” he said as he made various lewd gestures. 

 

The woman posted the video on social media but has not officially filed a report. She reportedly wanted the video to go viral to push for the man’s arrest.

“The government didn’t disappoint,” she said, as the public prosecutor issued an order to arrest the man.

In Dammam, a woman was sexually assaulted from behind as she was leaving a grocery store on Saturday. The incident was captured on CCTV.

 

 

Saudi Arabia’s Attorney General Saud Al-Moajab ordered the immediate arrest of the man after the incident was brought to his attention.

Police spokesman Col. Ziyad Al-Riqaiti did not identify the man, but said he was a Saudi in his 20s.

Social media lit up in reaction as the videos of both perpetrators were widely circulated. An overwhelming majority of Saudis expressed disdain, saying the perpetrators’ actions contradicted Islamic teachings. There were some who justified the acts of the perpetrators.

“Defamation, defamation, defamation. How will the likes of him deter from their ways if we don’t slander him?” @MAloamari tweeted. “The public prosecutor’s quick actions are praised by all in the community.”

@adnanalhassani said of the grocery store incident: “Thank God for CCTV cameras.”

@m7md1433 tweeted: “The most important thing is they brought him in. We’ll surely hear of the severe punishment shortly.”

@TARQ2012 tweeted: “Defamation is the best solution for harassers.” @abood7562 said of the harasser in Dammam: “Let them put an end to this aggressor. I wish that the most severe of penalties is applied.”




Two Saudi men, both in their 30s, were arrested for sexually harassing women in the eastern cities of Alkhobar and Dammam. (YouTube image)

Shoura Council member Noura Shaaban said: “We live in the reign of King Salman, who has ensured that women must work in a safe environment.”

She added: “He has issued laws to combat harassment. The Human Rights Commission commended the adoption of this system and its importance in maintaining the individual’s privacy and dignity, guaranteed by the provisions of Islamic law and regulations.”

Shaaban said: “We as women shall continue to exercise all our daily activities and errands with the support of our leadership.”

Al-Riqaiti said police throughout the Kingdom are keen to ensure the safety of all citizens and residents.

He issued a stern warning against anyone wishing to harm the security, safety and stability of Saudi society.

In a statement posted on its Twitter page, the public prosecution emphasized that sexual harassment is defined as words or actions that hint at sexuality, coming from one person to another, that harm the body, honor or modesty of a person in any way, including through the use of modern technology. 




The law provides for penalties of up to two years in prison and fines of up to SR100,000 ($26,664.5).

In 2017, a royal decree stated that “considering the dangers sexual harassment poses and its negative impact on the individual, the family and society along with its contradiction of Islamic principles, our customs and traditions,” the Interior Ministry “shall prepare a draft law to tackle sexual harassment.” The decree came days after the ban on women driving was lifted.

In May 2018, the Shoura Council and Cabinet approved legislation, drafted by the ministry and instructed by King Salman, that criminalized sexual harassment.

Decoder

Penalty for sexual harassment

Last year, Saudi Arabia brought in a law criminalizing sexual harassment. Offenders may be imprisoned for up to two years and/or fined up to SR100,000 ($26,664.5). If the crime is repeated, offenders face five years in prison and/or a fine of SR300,000.


Overdue business rents waived by Saudi court

Overdue business rents waived by Saudi court
If a contract obliges one of the parties to carry out a task, which cannot be completed on time due to the pandemic, the court can temporarily suspend the implementation of the obligation. (SPA)
Updated 19 January 2021

Overdue business rents waived by Saudi court

Overdue business rents waived by Saudi court
  • The new regulations cover construction contracts, supply contracts, and the like, which have been affected by the pandemic

RIYADH: The General Assembly of the Saudi Supreme Court has ordered the waiving of overdue rents on businesses hit by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, and called for a review of such contracts between tenants and owners.

The steps have been taken in view of the circumstances caused by the pandemic, wherein an obligation or contract cannot be implemented without unusual losses.

The president of the Supreme Court, Khalid bin Abdullah bin Muhammad Al-Luhaidan, approved the decisions backed by 32 members of the assembly, Okaz newspaper reported.

Authorities have set conditions that have to be met before a case can be considered for review under the new regulations.

If a contract was concluded before the commencement of the preventive measures announced in the wake of the pandemic, then the impact was direct and unavoidable. If in such a case, an affected party was not compensated or did not reach a deal to mitigate the impact of the health crisis, then it qualifies for a review and the new regulations will then take effect, said legal sources.

The Supreme Court said a competent court will issue its verdict based on facts and circumstantial evidence, and may order amendments to a contract.

It also said the new provisions will be applicable to tenancy contracts and movable properties affected by the pandemic.

It clarified that if, due to the pandemic, a tenant was unable to use the leased property, in whole or in part, the court would reduce the rent as much as the usually intended benefit was reduced.

A lessor, meanwhile, does not have the right to terminate the contract if a tenant is late in paying rent for the period during which it was impossible to fully or partly use the property due to the pandemic.

HIGHLIGHT

The Supreme Court said a competent court will issue its verdict based on facts and circumstantial evidence, and may order amendments to a contract.

The new regulations also cover construction contracts, supply contracts, and the like, which have been affected by the pandemic.

If the pandemic causes an increase to the cost of materials and labor wages, etc., the court shall increase the value of the contract while ensuring the obligor can afford to bear the expense. The obligee, upon increasing the obligation, has the right to request the termination of the contract. If the increase in the cost of materials is temporary, the court reserves the right to temporarily suspend the contract.

If the pandemic causes a shortage of material in the market, the court can reduce the quantity to the extent it deems sufficient to protect the obligor from harm.

Moreover, if the shortage of materials is temporary, the court can temporarily suspend the contract if the person obligated to it is not severely affected by this suspension. If he is harmed, he may request termination of the contract. If the materials were not available at all, leading to the impossibility of implementing the contractual obligations or some of them, the court will terminate the clauses that are impossible to implement upon the request of one of the parties to the contract.

If a contract obliges one of the parties to carry out a task, which cannot be completed on time due to the pandemic, the court can temporarily suspend the implementation of the obligation. If the other party fears unusual damage due to the suspension, he may request termination of the contract.

In addition, the court also stressed the need to carefully assess the damages on a case-to-case basis, and that one or more experts should do the assessment. While assessing damages, it should be made clear what losses were incurred directly due to the pandemic and had nothing do to with seasonal upswing in certain activities.

The Supreme Court explained that a court is bound, when considering cases arising from contracts and obligations affected by the pandemic, not to apply penalty clause or fines in whole or in part — depending on the case.

In the event that a contract includes a clause of exemption from liability for one of the contracting parties when an emergency or force majeure occurs, the condition has no effect, and the party that breaches the obligation must provide evidence that the pandemic was the reason for the breach.

The affected contracts that are not covered by the provisions of this principle shall be subject to the legal and statutory litigation principles, said the court.

Commenting on the decision, Talal Albotty, the regional director of the Central Region, Salama Insurance Co., said there is a type of insurance called “suspension of operations” because of continuous epidemics, and falls under property insurance.

“This type of insurance can be found in European countries and some Asian countries but it is not applicable in Saudi Arabia,” he told Arab News. “The insurance against projects does not exist because when the project stops, insurance stops.”

Regarding the rise in prices of commodities, or the increase in prices because of pandemics and suspension of imports, a condition must be added stating that the value of property or project must increase by 10-25 percent, he added.

“Now most reinsurance companies around the world stopped offering insurance related to pandemics and contagious diseases in most countries, including COVID-19, because their impact was huge and the companies sustained huge losses,” he said.

Saudi lawyer Reem Alajmi said the resolution aims to treat and remedy the losses incurred by parties to the contract in terms of obligations.

“The parties could not fulfil their obligations because of a lack of sufficient resources or suspension of working hours during the pandemic. Fulfilling the obligation fully or partially was difficult because COVID-19 pandemic was a force majeure,” she told Arab News.

According to Alajmi, the effects or damage caused by the pandemic must not be covered by other laws. “Proving the occurrence of damage is the responsibility of the plaintiff and the defendant based on evidence submitted to the court,” she added. “The contracts and obligations are amended accordingly.”