Fines imposed on violators entering holy sites ahead of Hajj

The pilgrims’ health status was the main criteria used in selecting who would be allowed to participate in Hajj. (SPA)
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Updated 26 July 2020

Fines imposed on violators entering holy sites ahead of Hajj

  • Pilgrims must go on self-quarantine before performing annual ritual

MAKKAH: Sixteen people have been caught and fined SR10,000 ($2,666) each in the past week for violating a ban on entry into the holy sites, according to the Saudi Public Security spokesman.

Hajj pilgrims are to self-quarantine to ensure their compliance with confinement before heading to the holy sites, the Saudi Press Agency reported, as part of tough new rules to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Saudi authorities are severely restricting pilgrim numbers this year, as well as imposing health protocols such as social distancing, to ensure that the Hajj can be performed safely amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Expats living in the Kingdom have been chosen to perform this year’s Hajj and represent 70 percent of the 2020 pilgrim cohort.
The Kingdom’s deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, Dr. Abdel Fattah bin Sulaiman Mashat, said that pilgrims would have to adhere to “house confinement” before they headed to the holy sites, and to abide by institutional confinement from July 25-29 (4-8 of Dhu Al-Hijjah) in Makkah.
He insisted that there was no differentiation in the selection process, except in terms of the health standards set by authorities, and that the process had been done through an electronic portal.
The ministry had begun implementing its plans to organize this year’s Hajj season early because of the pandemic, he added, and all necessary measures had been adopted so that the rites of Islam’s fifth pillar could be performed safely.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Saudi authorities are severely restricting pilgrim numbers this year, as well as imposing health protocols such as social distancing, to ensure that the Hajj can be performed safely amid the coronavirus pandemic.

• Expats living in the Kingdom have been chosen to perform this year’s Hajj and represent 70 percent of the pilgrim cohort.

Saudi Arabia had asked for patience while Hajj preparations were finalized and mechanisms were put in place for pilgrims and those serving them in terms of protecting them from potential infection.
“Health determinants are the basis for selecting pilgrims residing in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and there will be no exceptions to anyone during this year’s Hajj season,” said the minister of Hajj and Umrah, Mohammed Salih Bentin.
He said that the selection process was carried out in complete transparency and that polymerase chain reaction tests were carried out on each pilgrim selected to provide a clear bill of health.
The minister added that no government officials or servicemen would be allowed to perform this year’s Hajj pilgrimage.


Harassers face ‘naming and shaming’ after Saudi Shoura Council ruling

Updated 01 October 2020

Harassers face ‘naming and shaming’ after Saudi Shoura Council ruling

  • It will help eliminate harassment in workplaces and public places as well as in schools

JEDDAH: Violations of Saudi Arabia’s anti-sexual harassment laws could be punished by “naming and shaming” following a decision by the Kingdom’s Shoura Council to approve a defamation penalty.

The council voted in favor of the penalty during its session on Wednesday after previously rejecting the move in March this year.

Council member Latifah Al-Shaalan said the proposal to include the penalty was sent by the Saudi Cabinet.

Saudi lawyer Njood Al-Qassim said she agrees with the move, adding that it will help eliminate harassment in workplaces and public places as well as in schools.

“The penalty will be imposed according to a court ruling under the supervision of judges, and according to the gravity of the crime and its impact on society,” Al-Qassim told Arab News.

“This will be a deterrent against every harasser and molester,” she said.

Al-Qassim said that legal experts are required to explain the system and its penalties to the public.

“The Public Prosecution has clarified those that may be subject to punishment for harassment crimes, including the perpetrator, instigator and accessory to the crime, the one who agreed with the harasser, malicious report provider, and the person who filed a malicious prosecution lawsuit,” she added.

“The Public Prosecution also confirmed that attempted harassment requires half the penalty prescribed for the crime,” said Al-Qassim.

In May 2018, the Shoura Council and Cabinet approved a measure criminalizing sexual harassment under which offenders will be fined up to SR100,000 ($26,660) and jailed for a maximum of two years, depending on the severity of the crime. 

In the most severe cases, where the victims are children or disabled, for example, violators will face prison terms of up to five years and/or a maximum penalty of SR300,000.

Incidents that have been reported more than once will be subject to the maximum punishment. 

The law seeks to combat harassment crimes, particularly those targeting children under 18 and people with special needs.

Witnesses are also encouraged to report violations and their identities will remain confidential.

The law defines sexual harassment as words or actions that hint at sexuality toward one person from another, or that harms the body, honor or modesty of a person in any way. It takes into account harassment in public areas, workplaces, schools, care centers, orphanages, homes and on social media.

“The legislation aims at combating the crime of harassment, preventing it, applying punishment against perpetrators and protecting the victims in order to safeguard the individual’s privacy, dignity and personal freedom which are guaranteed by Islamic law and regulations,” a statement from the Shoura Council said.

Council member Eqbal Darandari, who supports the law, said on Twitter that the defamation penalty has proven its effectiveness in crimes in which a criminal exploits a person’s trust.

“The defamation of one person is a sufficient deterrent to the rest,” she said.

Social media activist Hanan Abdullah told Arab News the decision “is a great deterrent for every harasser since some fear for their personal and family’s reputation, and won’t be deterred except through fear of defamation.”

The move will protect women from “uneducated people who believe that whoever leaves her house deserves to be attacked and harassed,” she said.

“Anyone who is unhappy with this decision should look at their behavior.”