Reuters reported that Saudi Arabia has taken a new decision on the punishment of flogging that it has been applying for several decades and arouses sharp criticism from international human rights organizations, in conjunction with the death of the Saudi human rights defender and academic Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamid in prison.
The agency stated that it had seen a document from the Saudi Supreme Court on Friday confirming that the kingdom canceled flogging as a form of punishment, and replaced it with imprisonment, a fine, or both.
"This adds to the reforms and developments achieved in the field of human rights in the Kingdom, which came under the guidance of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and under the direct supervision and follow-up by His Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz."
The head of the state-backed Human Rights Committee, Awad al-Awad, told Reuters that this reform is an important step forward in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's human rights program, and is just one of many recent reforms in the Kingdom.
"This is a welcome change, but it should have happened years ago," said Adam Cogel, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch. "Nothing is standing in the way of Saudi Arabia to reform its unfair judicial system."
The disclosure of the decision came in conjunction with widespread human rights criticism faced by the Saudi authorities following the death of the Saudi human rights defender and academic Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamid in prison, and accusing the human rights community of Saudi Arabia of killing Al-Hamid through neglect.
The detainees of opinion account accused the Saudi authorities of deliberately neglecting Al-Hamid’s condition until his death, after leaving him for hours in a coma before being transferred to the hospital.
Lin Maalouf, director of research for Amnesty Middle East, described al-Hamid as "the human rights defender in Saudi Arabia."
"We are in solidarity with his family and friends who, during the past eight years, have been deprived of their existence as a result of the inhuman repression of the state," she said.
"He and all the prisoners of conscience in Saudi Arabia should not have been in prison in the first place."
Al-Hamid is the founder of the Civil and Political Rights Association (Hasim), and was sentenced to 11 years in prison in March 2013, according to activists.
Saudi activists mourned Al-Hamid, saying that he was "a symbol of truth and justice, exposing injustice and sacrificing his life for the future and rights of Saudis and fighting until the last breath."