The following news item appeared on the English-language site of the Palestinian Ma’an News Service in January. There was a flurry of media comment, which has since died out. Nothing has changed since then:
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — President Mahmoud Abbas has no plans to amend laws that reduce sentences for suspects who claim an “honor” defense for murdering women, his legal adviser says.
“Why change it? This would cause serious problems,” Hassan al-Ouri told Ma’an, adding that such a reform would “not benefit women.”
In May 2011, the president pledged to amend the law to guarantee maximum penalties for “honor killing” in response to protests over the killing of university student Aya Baradiya in Hebron.
Aya Baradiya was murdered in 2010 by her uncle Okab [variously spelled Iqab or Akab], allegedly because “he disapproved of her relationship with her fiance.” Okab and his accomplices dragged her behind their car, beat her and tied her up. Then they threw her, still alive, into a well. In 2011, The Guardian reported,
But the killing went far beyond a family affair. After the discovery of Aya’s body more than a year after the 20-year-old university student went missing, her uncle confessed to Palestinian police, claiming it was an “honour” killing. Widespread protests against such crimes, led by students and women’s organisations, erupted. In response, the Palestinian president last month scrapped historic laws that permitted leniency for the perpetrators of so-called “honour” killings.
It is not so clear that this was a traditional ‘honor’ killing — some think the uncle had other motives — but after all, who cares? Tying women up and throwing them into wells is unacceptable for any reason, isn’t it?
Unfortunately, the Guardian article is incorrect. Abbas did change a law in 2011 — but it was a never-used law that pardons a murderer if he finds his wife in bed with another man. Of course this wouldn’t apply to 99% of honor killings anyway.
It turns out that the relevant law — which allows for a maximum sentence of 6 months in jail (often only 1 or 2 months in practice) if a murder is judged to be committed for the sake of preserving a family’s honor — will not be changed after all.
Al-Ouri says the president will not change the go-to clauses for lawyers seeking leniency for clients who claim they committed murder to defend family “honor.”
Articles 97 to 100 of the Jordanian Penal Code, in force in the West Bank, still offer reduced sentences for any act of battery or murder committed in a “state of rage.”
“The (law) only addresses 1 percent of the problem. What we need is a new culture,” al-Ouri said.
He got that one right.