Death Natural Causes Unnatural Circumstances : A True Experience of Alabama Justice

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Unnatural deaths include death by accident, suicide, homicide, neglect, injury, poisoning, accidental overdose of a drug or a wrong drug given in error, misadventure to patients during surgical and medical care, adverse effects of medical or surgical care etc, and many unnatural deaths are related to the quality of healthcare and patient safety.

If a death is suspected or known to be unnatural, the certification of cause of death should be referred to the coroner or medical examiner, in accordance with the forensic system in place in the country in question [ 14 , 15 ]. Nevertheless, a certain number of unnatural deaths might not be referred to coroners, either unintentionally or intentionally. For example, a patient is admitted to hospital because of a head injury and dies from pneumonia 3 months later because of the patient's long-term bed-ridden status.

The attending physician might forget that the original cause of death was a traffic accident and unintentionally certify the cause of death as natural death without referral to the coroner. On the other hand, in deaths of the elderly from proximal femoral fracture [ 16 ] or deaths related to medical errors [ 17 ], many doctors might intentionally not to refer the case to the coroner in order to avoid an inquest, instead reporting these deaths as natural deaths.

Some studies have used questionnaires consisting of fictitious case histories to assess the ability of clinicians to recognize deaths that require referral to the coroner [ 18—20 ]. The limitations of these studies were the small sample sizes of physicians surveyed and the inclusion of hypothetical situations that may not reflect real-world situations.

Charles et al. One limitation of this study was the small number of deaths, which prevented further stratification of under-reporting by cause of death or injuries. The aims of this study are to estimate how many suspected or known unnatural deaths were referred to the coroner for cause of death certification and to investigate whether injury-related information was reported on death certificates in Taiwan through record linkage between hospital discharge claims data and cause of death data.

All patients with a main discharge diagnosis of injury ICDCM code — were linked to cause of death data from and through an identification number, with 11 patients linked in total. Some patients died during their hospital stay, some within a few days of discharge from hospital and some several months after discharge. The longer the interval between the discharge date and the death date, the less likely that death is related to injury or poisoning, and therefore only those deaths that occurred within 3 days after discharge from hospital were defined as known or suspected unnatural deaths in this study.

For example, one patient had a main discharge diagnosis of hip fracture due to falls, but died from acute myocardial infarction 2 days after discharge. The underlying cause of death might have been found to be acute myocardial infarction after the coroner had examined the decreased, but the decision as to whether the deceased died a natural or unnatural death is the responsibility of the coroner.

There is an item on the death certificate that indicates whether the certifier is a medical physician, a coroner or another professional. This information was used to identify whether the death was referred to the coroner. Using the total known or suspected unnatural deaths as the denominator and the number of certifications by coroners as the numerator, we calculated the percentage of unnatural deaths that were referred to the coroner.

We then calculated the percentage of unnatural deaths in which injury-related information ICD-9 codes — or E—E had been reported on the death certificates. These two percentages were then presented by characteristics of the deceased, length of stay in hospital, place of death, level of hospital, type of injury and external cause of death. The place of death information was taken from the details recorded on the death certificates. The level of hospital was according to accreditation levels and includes academic medical centers, regional hospitals and district hospitals, based on the capacity and volume of the services provided.

District hospitals have fewer beds and services compared with regional hospitals and medical centers. Numbers of discharges and unnatural deaths, and numbers and percentages of deaths referred to the coroner or in which injury-related information was reported on death certificates, by characteristics of the deceased and level of hospital, in Taiwan, Numbers and percentages of unnatural deaths that were referred to the coroner for cause of death certification and in which injury-related information was reported on death certificates, by types of injury, in Taiwan, Numbers and percentages of unnatural deaths that were referred to the coroner for cause of death certification or in which injury-related information was reported on death certificates, by external cause, in Taiwan, The percentages for both referral and reporting were relatively high for deaths related to fracture of the skull and internal injury.

For deaths related to fracture of the femur and the effects of a foreign body, many doctors reported injury-related information on the death certificate but did not refer the certification of cause of death to the coroner. Both proportions were low for deaths related to complications in medical and surgical care. For the deaths which had E-codes of discharge diagnoses, the highest proportions for both referral to the coroner and reporting of injury were found to be in deaths from transport accidents. For deaths from accidental poisoning and accidents caused by machinery, physicians were more likely to report injuries on death certificates but were less likely to refer cases to the coroner.

Our findings indicate that about three-tenths of known or suspected unnatural deaths within the period studied were not reported and were hidden in natural death categories in mortality data in Taiwan. Non-referral of unnatural deaths to coroners and non-reporting of unnatural deaths on death certificates was most apparent in deaths related to complications or misadventure in medical and surgical care.

Using record linkage data, unreported hidden deaths could be identified and monitored. One of the strengths of this study was the use of national population-based record linkage data to estimate the under-referral and -reporting of unnatural deaths in routine mortality data; another was the use of a strict definition of unnatural death.

We confined the cases used to only those in which the date of death was within 3 days of discharge from hospital. It is very unlikely that these deaths were all owing to natural causes. One of the limitations of this study was that we did not review the detailed information contained in medical records in order to determine whether death really was unnatural or not.

This study is by no means a validity study; we did not intend to use the discharge main diagnosis as the gold standard in verifying the reporting of the underlying cause of death on the death certificate. Johansson and Westerling clearly indicated that some of the main discharge diagnoses were the same as the underlying cause of death, some were complications of the underlying cause of death and some were just symptomatic diagnoses or other competing causes of death [ 23 , 24 ].

The quality of injury coding in hospital discharge records is relatively good compared with other diagnoses according to previous evaluation studies [ 25—29 ], but the overuse of non-specific E-codes in discharge records is a problem that is mentioned in all evaluation studies. For example, many computerized hospital discharge data lacked information about the circumstances of falls or the status of injured persons in motor vehicle traffic injuries.

Other errors included late effects of injury misclassified as acute injury and under-reporting of undetermined intent. We believe that these artifacts also exist in discharge records in Taiwan. Another limitation of this study was the incompleteness of E-code reporting for insurance claims. This means they suffer under a system that ultimately fails to uphold the rights of all children to protection from abuse and ill-treatment and to due process, and discriminates against girls and foreign children. Children are especially at a disadvantage in a criminal justice system that takes little account of their special needs.

Very few Saudi laws or regulations explicitly address the rights of child offenders, or how their cases are to be handled, leaving law enforcement officials, judges, and prosecutors with broad discretion in determining when to arrest children, how long to detain them, and what punishments to impose on those deemed to have broken the law.

Judicial discretion is exacerbated by the lack of law setting an age below which a child should not be tried as an adult. As a result, judges often treat as adults persons who were under age 18 at the time of an alleged crime. Judges can sentence to death, amputation, or flogging children still under 18 as well as those now over 18 but who committed the crime while under age Often such sentences will be imposed following trials where they had no legal counsel and little capacity or opportunity to defend themselves.

In addition, authorities often treat foreign children who are victims of trafficking primarily as offenders and they can be arrested, detained, or deported for begging or lack of legal residency. Many children deported in these circumstances are at risk of return to places where they face irreparable harm. The government has been reluctant to acknowledge and address these enormous gaps in child protection, leaving children vulnerable in a system that lacks adequate, independent child protection mechanisms.

Human Rights Watch is aware of at least 12 cases of persons sentenced to death for offenses committed while under age 18, including three cases of juvenile offenders who were executed in The true number of such sentences is likely to be much higher: while Saudi Arabian authorities do not publish statistics on death sentences against juvenile offenders, the most recent publicly available Ministry of Social Affairs statistics for show "persons under 18" detained for homicide, a capital offense.

This figure does not appear to include Saudi Arabian or foreign girls charged with homicide, and it does not include persons over age 18 who have been sentenced to death for crimes committed while under age No laws or regulations require judges to evaluate the child's mental, emotional, and intellectual maturity when determining to try a child as an adult.

Human Rights Watch has documented cases of children as young as 13 at the time of the offense whom courts have sentenced to death as a consequence of the judges' determination, based on the child's physical development alone, that the child is mature. Children under age 12 may also be subject to arrest and prosecution because new standards announced in raising the age of criminal responsibility from seven to 12 for boys do not appear to be well publicized or enforced. Regulations governing girls in conflict with the law do not set any minimum age of criminal responsibility.

Police and agents from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice CPVPV routinely stop in the street and sometimes detain children for minor offenses such as exchanging phone numbers with members of the opposite sex. Girls are at special risk of arbitrary detention and prosecution for vague offenses such as "mingling" or "seclusion," which can include being found alone with a male who is not a family member.

Since CPVPV officers are required to be accompanied by a police officer when making arrests, and as of July are not supposed to detain people at their facilities at all, but should hand them over to police. It is far from clear whether in practice this is what happens. In any event, prosecutors can order children detained to be held for investigation for up to six months without judicial review. During this time, children rarely have access to lawyers or other appropriate assistance. Outside of the criminal justice system, the Ministry of Social Affairs can detain both boys and girls indefinitely even though the child has been neither charged with nor convicted of an offence.

Ministry of Social Affairs staff need only decide that the child needs additional "guidance" or that their guardians have failed to claim them. Such detention is subject to judicial review for boys, but not for girls. Saudi Arabian law allows officials in Ministry of Interior prisons and Ministry of Social Affairs detention centers to use corporal punishment against children, and punishments such as solitary confinement and denial of family visits. Judges also regularly order corporal punishment as a judicial penalty. Girls are also subject to mandatory medical testing, and if such tests reveal they have a sexually transmitted disease, Ministry of Social Affairs officials have the authority to place girls and young women under age 30 in isolation that is both medically-unwarranted and stigmatizing.

Authorities fail to adequately categorize and separate detained children, routinely mixing convicted children with children under investigation, and in some cases mixing children with adults. In one boys' detention facility Human Rights Watch visited, only one supervisor was responsible for monitoring a dormitory for and year-old detainees with 90 beds-a situation that increases children's risk of abuse by other detainees.

At a girls' detention facility, we found smaller dormitories, but still too few dormitories to adequately separate children by age and from adults, to separate convicted detainees from those held pending trial, and to separate detainees accused of serious offenses from those accused of minor offenses. Children, whether being questioned in detention or facing trial, have little access to legal or other assistance, even when facing serious charges. While Saudi Arabian law allows criminal suspects the right to seek the assistance of a lawyer or representative, it does not require investigators to halt questioning of children until a guardian or lawyer arrives, and it does not provide for a lawyer free of charge for those who cannot afford one.

By law, Ministry of Social Affairs staff must attend interrogations held in its detention centers for children, but when Human Rights Watch observed one child being questioned and other children waiting to be questioned at the Riyadh Social Observation Home, the staff sat in a separate room, too far away to hear or provide meaningful assistance, and none of the children's guardians were present.

In the government proposed updating existing regulations to significantly increase the number of law enforcement agencies authorized to question children at their premises rather than in juvenile detention centers and to allow these agencies to take unspecified steps to "resolve" cases. Children questioned at police stations and other law enforcement agencies have even fewer protections against coercion than those questioned at juvenile detention centers and if a "resolution" is reached, it is not subject to judicial review.

Saudi Arabian officials have estimated that 24, children trafficked from 18 countries are involved in street selling and begging in Saudi Arabia. Instead of treating these children as victims and providing them with access to services such as voluntary shelters and adequate health care, the authorities arrest them for begging and illegal residency and deport them to their countries of origin.

Many children are from countries where they are at risk of re-trafficking or underage recruitment into armed conflict, and as such they should not be repatriated without a thorough evaluation to determine whether repatriation is in their best interests and that appropriate measures for their protection are in place. According to staff at the Ministry of Social Affairs Residential Center for Child Beggars in Jeddah, staff there routinely assess children's needs within five days of their arrival, and the vast majority are then deported, even in cases where there is direct evidence that they are at risk of being re-trafficked.

Authorities may detain older children with unrelated adults in adult deportation centers with deplorable conditions, putting them at risk of violence including sexual abuse. A March Council of Ministers decree expanding the Ministry of Social Affairs' authority to arrest beggars threatens to increase arrests and deportations of children trafficked for begging, straining the capacity of existing centers for child beggars and increasing the likelihood that authorities may detain children in unsafe conditions and repatriate them to countries where they risk abuse.

Saudi Arabian authorities need to issue, publicize, and enforce clear rules for protecting children's rights at all stages of arrest, investigation, trial, and detention. At the top of this list should be laws outlawing the death penalty and all forms of corporal punishment for persons under 18 at the time of the alleged offense. The authorities should also give priority to ending discriminatory laws and practices that make girls vulnerable to arbitrary arrest and detention, and that put foreign children at risk of arrest, detention, and repatriation to situations where they are at risk of abuse.

These reports incorporate research conducted during the organization's visit for three weeks in November and December ; this was the first fact-finding visit to Saudi Arabia by an international human rights organization.

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This particular report also draws on meetings with government officials and others during a one-week visit to Riyadh in March , and on our ongoing research on the juvenile death penalty in Saudi Arabia. In some cases the individuals we spoke with asked us not to identify them to protect their privacy and avoid possible retaliation for speaking to us; in those cases we have withheld their names and, in some instances, other identifying information.

The Human Rights Watch researchers who conducted the interviews cited in this report include three researchers fluent in Arabic with extensive experience in the areas of children's rights, women's rights, and criminal justice. A fourth Human Rights Watch researcher who is an expert in women's rights and migration conducted interviews with Saudi government officials, foreign diplomats, and migrant workers in English, Arabic, Tagalog, Sinhala, Tamil, and Bahasa Indonesia, in many cases with the assistance of interpreters.

Human Rights Watch's executive director, Middle East and North Africa Division executive director, and three members of its advisory committees also participated in some meetings with officials cited in this report. Human Rights Watch typically seeks to base our findings on testimonies of individuals directly affected by human rights violations, supplemented by our review of relevant laws and regulations and meetings with officials, service providers, and other with direct knowledge of human rights conditions in the country. Saudi Arabian authorities prevented Human Rights Watch researchers from speaking privately to detainees in Ministry of Social Affairs juvenile detention facilities and Ministry of Interior immigration detention facilities and prisons for women, and declined our request to meet with juvenile court judges and attend trials.

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I n addition, the Minister of Social Affairs declined to respond in writing to Human Rights Watch's March and June requests for clarification of regulations and practices affecting children in conflict with the law or in need of protection in Ministry of Social Affairs custody.

In March the Ministry of Justice provided a partial response to our November request for clarification of laws and procedures governing death penalty cases involving juvenile offenders; we have yet to receive a response to a similar letter to the president of the Supreme Council of the Judiciary.

As a result, it was difficult for Human Rights Watch to confirm the full extent of some of the violations documented in this report. We note these points in the text. Therefore for example the Convention on the Rights of the Child has the same legal status as domestic legislation and can be directly invoked in domestic court proceedings.

In this report the term "child" refers to any person under the age of The Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a child as "every human being below the age of 18 years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier. To reflect this usage, in this report the term "young woman" refers to women ages 18 to Saudi Arabia follows the Hijri calendar, a lunar calendar.

Where such dates appear in this report we have also included the equivalent Gregorian calendar dates for the reader's convenience. Violations of defendants' rights in Saudi Arabia's criminal justice system are so vast, fundamental, and systemic that Human Rights Watch has concluded elsewhere that Saudi Arabia's criminal justice system does not, as a general matter, adhere to the principles of the rule of law. As a result, law enforcement officials, judges, and prosecutors have very broad discretion to determine issues such as when to arrest children, how long to detain them, and what punishments to impose on those deemed to have broken the law.

These gaps in legislation and regulation leave children vulnerable to arbitrary arrest and detention, unfair trial, and criminal penalties that violate their fundamental rights. Saudi Arabian law specifies that all criminal punishments must be in accordance with Sharia or statutory law, and that courts shall apply Sharia precepts, as derived from the Quran and the Sunna the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad , as well as statutory laws that do not conflict with the Quran and the Sunna.

Statutory laws, known as regulations to distinguish them from Sharia , are issued by the prime minister, who currently is also the king. Many Sharia precepts are not readily accessible to laypeople, and jurists and legal scholars seeking to understand these precepts and their applications study the Quran, the Sunna, and the work of previous great scholars, often for years. The task of interpreting and applying Sharia in criminal cases largely falls to the judiciary, composed of courts and judges, a Supreme Judicial Council, a Council of Senior Scholars, a mufti, and a Ministry of Justice.

The judiciary is not bound by previous court rulings when determining which actions constitute crimes and what the attendant punishment should be, and there is little evidence that judges seek to apply consistency in sentencing for similar crimes. Saudi Arabia's Law of Criminal Procedure, in force since , sets forth the procedures relating to arrest, detention, and trial in criminal cases. The law specifies that "[t]he investigation and trial of juvenile offenders, including girls and young women, shall be conducted in accordance with the relevant laws and regulations," but the government has yet to issue laws and regulations specifically addressing arrest, investigation, trial, and sentencing procedures for children in conflict with the law.

Saudi Arabia does have a system of juvenile courts, and separate juvenile detention facilities for boys, although not for girls who are held in facilities with adults. The juvenile courts are staffed by regular judges drawn from the ranks of Sharia court judges assigned to the same district as the juvenile detention center.

The director of the Riyadh Social Welfare Home told Human Rights Watch, " A good judge should have some social training, but some judges don't distinguish between children and adults, or don't know the recent developments in the field. Under international law, the special procedures for juvenile justice set forth in the Convention on the Rights of the Child apply to all persons under age 18 at the time of the alleged offense, regardless of the individual's age at the time of trial or sentencing. This is part of the judges' wide discretion to interpret Sharia. So too is determining when a child can be treated as an adult for the purposes of imposing the death penalty and corporal punishments that include amputation and flogging see below.

J udicial opinions on when a child can be tried as an adult vary widely, and frequently depend on measures of children's physical development, contrary to international standards, which call upon states to make determinations of adult competence based on "emotional, mental and intellectual maturity," and not the child's physical maturity. He also stated that according to Sharia, age 15 was "the outside limit" for majority bulugh , so that a child age 15 or older who lacked these signs could still be sentenced and executed if found to have committed murder.

Even people knowledgeable about the juvenile justice system often focus inappropriately on whether children have attained majority at the time of the execution of a sentence, and not at the time of the offense. For example, members of the National Commission for Childhood and of the Council of Ministers' committee drafting Saudi Arabia's child law told Human Rights Watch that the new law will define a child as anyone under age 18 but that this provision would not prevent judges from issuing death sentences for crimes committed while under age Instead, it will only require that execution be postponed until the child turned In its report on human rights, Saudi Arabia's National Society for Human Rights called on the government to set a unified age of majority for both criminal and civil matters at 18, saying that doing so would comply with Saudi Arabia's obligations under both the CRC and Islamic law.

Saudi Arabia's Law on Criminal Procedure lists 20 types of person and entity authorized to arrest and investigate criminal suspects in matters relating to their competencies, including regional governors, prison officials, General Directorate of Passports officers, and heads of centers of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice CPVPV. The Law on Criminal Procedure allows an arresting officer to detain and question suspects for up to 24 hours before referring them to an investigator from the Ministry of Interior's Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution, a nominally independent agency subject to extensive oversight by the minister of interior.

Upon referral, a Bureau investigator must begin questioning the suspect or release him or her within 24 hours. Once law enforcement officers refer a suspect to the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution, investigators there can order a suspect detained for up to five days from the date of arrest, and the Bureau's director can extend the detention for up to six months before having to release the detainee or refer him to a judge who could order his release.

Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution officials have broad discretion in determining when and how long to detain suspects, because the law does not specify minimum standards of what officials must prove when issuing detention orders. The Law of Criminal Procedure fails to meet Saudi Arabia's obligations under international law, which guarantees every detainee, including children, deprived of his or her liberty the right to challenge the legality of the deprivation of his or her liberty before a court or other competent, independent, and impartial authority, and to a prompt decision on any such action.

Saudi Arabia's Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has both law enforcement and religious guidance functions, although the line between the two functions often is not clear. In the CPVPV's 5, religious police officers, together with 5, volunteers, carried out more than , arrests. In , CPVPV members were facing criminal charges of murder and abuse of power in this and two other, separate incidents, reportedly for the first time in their history.

According to the Executive Regulations to the CPVPV law, the Commission is authorized to monitor mixing of the two sexes and women adorning themselves excessively; transgendered behavior; men's advances toward women; saying obscenities; disrupting prayer by playing media near mosques; practicing or displaying non-Muslim faiths or disrespecting Islam; displaying or selling media contrary to Islam, including pornography, the Christian cross, the star of David, pictures of Buddha or the like; producing, distributing, or consuming alcohol; committing or facilitating lewdness, including adultery, homosexuality, and gambling; adhering to heresies by venerating places or celebrating events inconsistent with Islamic orthodoxy and orthopraxis; practicing magic for money; and shortchanging customers.

Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, states must set a minimum age of criminal responsibility MACR , below which they cannot formally charge children with a criminal offense or hold them responsible under the penal law. In January the government of Saudi Arabia informed the Committee on the Rights of the Child that it had raised the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 12 years. According to the head of criminal prosecutions in the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution, police do not arrest children under 12, and prosecutors do not interrogate them. Human Rights Watch has sought but been unable to obtain a copy of the Council of Ministers decree reported to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility, or confirm the categories of children covered by the decree and the steps the government has taken to implement it.

S haikh Ibrahim al-Gheith, President of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, told Human Rights Watch in December that there was no minimum age below which children could not be arrested. As an example, al-Gheith said that a member of his staff who stopped a year-old who had committed "a personal mistake" would only speak with the child, but "if there is a criminal element, we take the case to the police.

There is no minimum age of criminal responsibility for girls because our experience is that girls are older when they come into the system. Saudi Arabia 's system of legal guardianship is a further barrier to women's and girls' access to justice in the criminal legal system. Under the government's interpretation of Sharia , girls and women of all ages lack legal competency and must be under male guardianship, generally that of a father, husband, or son. Saudi Arabia also excludes women from key decision-making roles in the criminal justice system.

Saudi Arabia has no female judges, practicing lawyers, [56] members of the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution, or law enforcement officers. In a highly gender-segregated and conservative society such as Saudi Arabia's, this means women and girls must argue their cases before individuals who often question the legitimacy of their very presence outside the home.

Women and girls also face discriminatory treatment during detention see below. Foreign girls under investigation, facing trial, or whom a judge has ordered detained, are held in adult detention centers, unlike foreign boys in the same situations, and detention centers for Saudi nationals routinely mix girls with adults. Saudi Arabia also has far fewer detention facilities for girls than for boys, making it more likely that girls will be detained far from their families, and judges visit these facilities less frequently than they visit boys' detention centers.

Saudi Arabian authorities detain children in detention facilities run by the Ministry of Social Affairs and in immigration detention facilities and women's prisons run by the Ministry of Interior. Moreover, while social observation homes accept boys who are not Saudi nationals, girls' and young women's welfare institutions do not accept foreigners, whom the government instead holds in women's prisons operated by the Ministry of Interior. In addition to these detention facilities, the Ministry of Social Affairs also operates three R esidential Centers for Child Beggars marakaz iwa' al- atfal al-mutasawwilin for younger foreign boys and girls who are arrested for begging, lack legal residency, or otherwise are subject to deportation.

Neither type of immigration detention facility appears to be subject to judicial oversight. According to the government, in it detained 12, children under age 18 in "facilities for persons below eighteen in conflict the law [sic]" and "in adult facilities," [62] including 9, Saudi males, 1, Saudi females, and 2, non-Saudi males. The actual figure may be much higher, as these figures do not appear to include children held in immigration deportation centers or Ministry of Social Affairs centers for child beggars, or foreign girls held in Ministry of Interior prisons.

Saudi Arabian courts can impose the death penalty for a broad variety of offenses, and the government executed at least persons in Nevertheless, it is clear that Saudi courts have sentenced a significant number of children and youth to death for crimes committed while under age The Convention on the Rights of the Child prohibits the imposition of capital punishment and life imprisonment without possibility of release for offenses committed by persons below 18 years of age.

Both Sharia and Saudi Arabian statutory law allow for the death penalty. Capital offenses include adultery, apostasy, "corruption on earth," drug trafficking, sabotage, political rebellion, and murder during armed robbery. If the family agrees to accept blood money in exchange for dropping its private claim, it can demand any amount it sees fit, and specify any time limit for payment it chooses.

Determinations of majority are based on factors specified by experts in Islamic jurisprudence, including a Council of Senior Scholars decree. That decree states that majority is obtained when any one of four conditions are met: for males or females, 1 attaining 15 years of age; 2 occurrence of wet dreams al-ihtilam ; 3 appearance of pubic hair; or, in the case of girls, 4 upon menstruation.

Judges appear to make decisions based on physical characteristics of puberty at the time of trial or sentencing; such characteristics frequently are present long before an individual has reached the internationally recognized age of majority of 18 see above. In practice, this means that even young children may be sentenced to death. For example, in July a judge in Dammam sentenced the thenyear-old Ahmad al-Dukkani to death for a murder it found he committed when he was The court reportedly made its decision to try and sentence the boy as an adult based on a physical examination that measured the "hoarseness of [his] voice" and the appearance of body hair.

Saudi Arabia rarely makes public information on persons under 18 sentenced to death, and often children's families are reluctant to publicize these cases unless and until they have lost hope of resolving the case through private interventions.

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The most recent reported execution of a juvenile offender took place on August 20, Investigations conducted by Saudi Arabian journalists suggest that a significant number of children are at risk of execution after turning For example, an October investigation of the Jeddah Social Observation Home by Arab News that included interviews with the director and detainees reported that 40 of the detainees were boys under age 16 charged with murder, a charge that, if they were tried as adults and found guilty, carries the death penalty. On December 2, , Human Rights Watch visited the Riyadh Social Observation Home, one of 13 Ministry of Social Affairs reformatories for boys ages 12 to 18 who are under investigation, on trial, or convicted of crimes.

Human Rights Watch is aware of at least 12 cases involving individuals sentenced to death for crimes committed while under age [84]. Saudi Arabia routinely detains children under investigation, awaiting trial, or convicted of minor offenses. According to government statistics, the majority of children serving sentences or detained pending investigation or trial are held in Ministry of Social Affairs social observation homes or girls' or young women's welfare institutions see above.

Although government officials resist referring to the Ministry of Social Affairs facilities as detention centers, [] they are closed facilities where exit and entry is controlled by Ministry of Interior guards. Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Saudi Arabia is obliged to ensure that "[t]he arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child … be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time. Saudi Arabian officials acknowledge that a significant number of children and young women detained in Ministry of Social Affairs facilities have not been convicted but are held for investigation or pending trial.

Many of these are accused of committing only minor offenses. Even more disturbing, the authorities have detained many of these children and young women for what they deem to be improper contact between the sexes. This offense, referred to as "seclusion" khalwa or "mingling" ikhtilat , does not appear to be clearly defined in any written law.

Ministry of Social Affairs officials prevented Human Rights Watch from speaking with detainees, but directors of both facilities told us that detention pending investigation or trial and for minor offenses is common at both facilities. The director of the Riyadh Social Observation Home told Human Rights Watch that the majority of the detainees at the home on the day of our visit had not been convicted of any offense.

Human Rights Watch has not been able to identify in Saudi Arabian law evidentiary standards for proving seclusion khalwa or mingling ikhtilat , or recommended sentences for persons convicted of these offenses.

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Knowledgeable individuals told Human Rights Watch that in practice evidentiary standards "vary from place to place, depending on [local] culture. While Saudi Arabian authorities arrest both males and females for seclusion, anecdotal evidence suggests that these ill-defined offenses make women and girls vulnerable to detention and flogging for behavior that in many instances would not be punished by detention if committed by a male.

Evil is always a parasite on good. The same applies to physical evils. For example, a wound cannot exist without a body, and the very idea of a wound presupposes the concept of a healthy body. Blindness in a human is a physical evil, because humans are supposed to see but oysters are not, so blindness is not an evil for oysters.

Evil things are not done as ends in themselves, but good things are. Now, since evil is not a thing, God did not create evil. This lack of evil extended to the animal kingdom. In particular, people and animals originally ate plants, not other animals Genesis — There is a biblical illustration in Isaiah —9 and which are pictures of a future with allusions to the Edenic paradise God originally created.

But God created both Adam and Eve, as well as the angels, with the power of contrary choice. This means that they had the power to make a choice contrary to their own nature. Even God does not have this power, for He cannot sin and go against His perfectly holy nature Habakkuk , 1 John The power of contrary choice was a good, with no actual evil, but it meant that there was the possibility of evil.

But, evidently, God saw that a greater good would come from it, for example, that the result would be creatures who genuinely love God freely. As a result of his sin, Adam and his descendants acquired a sin nature Romans ff. But in this case, it now meant that they could no longer go against their sin nature Psalm , Jeremiah , Romans — The potentiality of evil, but not the actuality, is also illustrated by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

But after Adam and Eve sinned, they knew evil in the same way as a cancer sufferer knows cancer—by sad personal experience. In the Eternal State see God has prepared an eternal home , redeemed humanity, having been purified by Christ, will no longer even have the potential for sin. So in this sense, the Eternal State, with the new creation of the new heavens and new earth, will be even better than Eden.

Their descendants are now in bondage to sin. Only redeemed humans in the eternal state will have true freedom from this bondage. But indeed, humans have a voluntary will, and very many evils can be caused by this, including the 9—11 terrorist attack.

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For God to intervene against this type of evil, he would need to remove this volition. But then, how much volition should He remove, and would an atheist really be happy with this solution? If God stops evil murderers, should He also stop evil thoughts, which Jesus said were behind evil deeds Matthew But then, if this were acceptable, then should God give all atheists a splitting headache when they think a militantly atheistic thought? They would probably protest mightily! Crusoe taught about the devil, his origin, rebellion against God, and his terrible enmity against man.

This dialogue ensued:. God created Adam, and gave him only one command, and warned him that he would die if he disobeyed Genesis Thus when Adam sinned, God had to judge sin with death, to keep His word Genesis This is the first indication that death is an intruder into the world, not the way God originally made it. Thus the Bible is consistent throughout in linking death to sin.

Indeed, God apparently directly caused the first death in the world—an animal was slain to make clothing for Adam and Eve Genesis Now the Bible tells us that Adam was the head of the human race, representing each one of us, who are his descendants. When Adam rebelled against God, all human beings, represented by Adam, effectively said that they wanted life without God. Now since God is the author of life, death is the natural penalty of choosing life without God, the giver of life.

Also, because the Lord is holy and just, there had to be a penalty for rebellion. The Bible makes it clear that death is the penalty for our sin, not just the sin of Adam. In other words, it is really our fault that the world is the way it is. Furthermore, Genesis —28 says that mankind was given dominion over the whole creation. So when he sinned, the whole creation under him was cursed as well. So the Fall was cosmic in scope, affecting the entire creation.

God has removed some of His sustaining power—temporarily. At the same time that God judged sin with death, He withdrew some of His sustaining power. Everything is running down because of sin. God has given us a taste of life without Him—a world full of violence, death, suffering, and disease. If God withdrew all of His sustaining power, the creation would cease to exist. Colossians —17 tells us that all things are held together, right now, by the power of the Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ cf. Hebrews However, in one sense He is not holding it together perfectly, as He is deliberately letting things fall apart to give us a taste of what life is like without God.

In other words, God is allowing us to experience what we wanted—life without God cf. Romans — In the Old Testament, we get a glimpse of what the world is like when God upholds things one hundred percent. Obviously God miraculously upheld their clothing, shoes, and feet so that they would not wear out or fall apart as the rest of the creation is doing.

One can only imagine what the world would be like if God upheld every detail of it like this. The book of Daniel, chapter 3, gives us another glimpse, when we read about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walking into an intensely blazing furnace—yet coming out without even the smell of smoke on their clothes. These examples help us understand a little of what it would be like if God upheld every aspect of the creation—nothing would fall apart.

At the present time, we are living in a universe where things are decaying. The Western culture is very individualist in thinking, but the Bible was more collective, as are most cultures even today. But Adam also had dominion over the rest of creation, so when he sinned, the whole creation under him was cursed as well, in line with the principle of corporate punishment. Yet the Bible teaches this concept: believers in Christ are saved because our sins were corporately imputed credited to His account Isaiah when He was on the cross.

And His perfect righteousness was imputed to believers in Him 2 Corinthians A very good summary. But this has implications about world history that Geisler overlooks, as will be seen. Geisler is also well known as a believer in billions of years. The billions of years he proposes are not derived from the Bible, but were argued from the supposed length of time to form the rock layers.

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Now his science is grossly flawed, but this is outside the scope of this book, and has been refuted elsewhere. And fossils are the remains of dead things! Yet the dating methods that Geisler accepts place human fossils before Adam. An even bigger problem comes from the recent redating of two partial skulls of Homo sapiens that were unearthed in near the Omo River in southwestern Ethiopia.

Radiometric dating which Geisler tacitly supports has now placed them at , years ago. So undoubtedly modern humans are dated— by methods that Geisler tacitly upholds— to be far older than any possible biblical date for Adam. Even worse, there are many proven victims of human cannibalism in the fossil record, 53 again way before any possible date for Adam. Geisler was right to point out that animal carnivory and suffering also began after the Fall of Adam. But the same problem for human death is magnified for animal death. For example, the fossil record includes a turkey-sized Compsognathus found with a lizard in its belly; 56 a famous fossil of Velociraptor locked in mortal combat with a Protoceratops , and a T.

In contrast to the view that death and suffering have continued for millions of years, this biblical view of history has a wonderful implication for the future. The world will one day be restored Acts to a state in which, once again, there will be no violence and death. Billions of years of more death, suffering and disease? Clearly, this future state reflects the paradise that was once lost , not some imaginary land that never existed. A man named Job, who was the most righteous man on Earth at his time, suffered intensely—losing all his children, servants, and possessions in a single day.

Then he was struck by a painful illness. Jesus explained that neither was the case. The man was born blind so that God could demonstrate His power when Jesus healed him, John —7. Paul testified that he prayed three times for God to take some sort of physical disability from him. One of my friends has been deaf and blind from before she can remember. Instead, she thinks that God is instead using her to teach others about disabilities; she has travelled to a number of different countries to do this.

Indeed, although God certainly can heal organic physical disabilities, in the modern western world, He often chooses not to. One profile reports:. Jesus discussed why eighteen Jews died tragically when the tower of Siloam collapsed. This is directly applicable to modern atrocities, such as the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in the United States on September 11, I tell you, no! Thousands of people died in the World Trade Center catastrophe, and millions died in the Holocaust.

But hundreds of millions of people who saw and heard about this event will also die one day—in fact, thousands of them are dying every day—because all humans have been given the death penalty because of sin. The Bible is never embarrassed to talk about the question of suffering.

But the story does not end here. There is an eternal world to come, where God will make all things right.

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The hope of a resurrection is the key to understanding our suffering. A minister who actually had experience with dying children unlike Russell who never got his own hands dirty with such practical things challenged Russell to explain what he could offer such a child. But the Christian has hope that this life is not the end. The famous literature scholar and apologist C. Lewis — , 67 himself no stranger to suffering, 68 wrote a book The Problem of Pain He argued that people have lost the sense of the seriousness of sin, and God can use suffering as a reminder of this horror.

That is, our world is not good; rather, we live in a world cursed as a judgment on sin :. Indeed, people might remember how many people were seen in Church for the first time in years after the Twin Towers terrorist attacks. But we can boil them down into five points:. That is, it makes us mature in the image of Christ. When we suffer, we better understand the surpassing glory of the suffering Saviour, and the wonders of what He did for us. Suffering is the door through which we enter future glories that we, as yet, know nothing about. This statement may, at first glance, seem strange.

But since the eternal Son of God took upon Him all the sufferings of all mankind—past and future—then it appears that our sufferings somehow complete the sufferings He suffered see Colossians God sends us suffering to add to the glory of what His Son suffered. People who accuse God of sitting back and doing nothing are missing a vital truth. In reality, God has already done everything you would want a loving God to do—and infinitely more!

Even though our bodies die, we are made in the image of God, and thus we have a non-material part that survives physical death Matthew , Philippians —23, Revelation — Our conscious being is going to live forever. The only way for us to restore our life with God is if we are able to come to Him with the penalty paid for our sin. Leviticus helps us to understand how this can be done.

God makes it clear that, because we are creatures of flesh and blood, the only way to pay the penalty for our sin is if blood is shed to take away our sin. But if death and suffering were natural, and occurring for millions of years before Adam, then why should blood-shedding have this sin-removing property? In the Garden of Eden, God killed an animal and clothed Adam and Eve as a picture of a covering for our sin.

A blood sacrifice was needed because of our sin. Because the Holy Spirit overshadowed His mother Luke , He was a perfect man, one without sin, despite having been tempted in every way that we are Hebrews , who thus could shed His blood on a cross for our sin. No sinner could pay for the sins of others Hebrews , but this last Adam—Jesus Christ—was a perfect man.

God in human flesh was able to bear the sins and sorrows of the world; a perfect sacrifice of infinite value. He can now give eternal life to anyone who receives it by faith John , Ephesians —9. God dwells in eternity, and He is lovingly preparing His people to spend an eternity with Him. Those who put their trust in Christ as Saviour have a wonderful hope—they can spend eternity with the Lord in a place where there will be no more death. Also, in this eternal state, there will once again be a tree of life, as in Eden, and no more curse Revelation —3.

Indeed, death is really the path that opens the way to this wonderful place, called Heaven. If we lived forever, we would never have an opportunity to shed this sinful body. But God wants us to have a new body, and He wants us to dwell with Him forever. Most of us have heard about Hell, a place of fire and torment, and eternal shame. None other than Jesus Christ warned of this place more than He spoke of Heaven. He also made it clear that the torment of the wicked was as eternal Greek aionios as the life of the blessed Matthew God does not delight in the death of the wicked.

God takes no pleasure in the afflictions and calamities of people. He is a loving, merciful God—it is our fault that man is in the current state of suffering and death. This is only right: for those who cling to their sins, God will grant them their wish, and separate them from Himself, the source of goodness, for eternity. So He must punish violations of His law. Since our shortcomings offend His perfect, infinite holiness, the punishment must also be infinite.

Because we are finite, it follows that the punishment must be of infinite duration Matthew The only way out is for a perfect divine and human substitute to take our place—see Good News! As we face horrible suffering, such as the tragedy at the World Trade Center or the Holocaust, let it remind us that the ultimate cause of such calamity is our sin—our rebellion against God. Our loving God, despite our sinfulness, wants us to spend eternity with Him. Christians need to stretch forth a loving, comforting arm to those who are in need of comfort and strength during times of suffering.

They can find strength in the arms of a loving Creator who hates Death—the enemy that will one day be thrown into the Lake of Fire Revelation Some think that they go automatically to heaven, which would be what I would like to believe, and this would comfort parents who have lost young children or miscarried, and those with mentally handicapped children.

However, this actually leads to a serious problem: moral hazard. This would lead to the perverse position that the greatest soul-winner in history would not be the Apostle Paul, Wesley and Whitfield, or Billy Graham, but the abortion industry Planned Parenthood. This seems to indicate that this infant would be in Heaven, where David would go. Another moral hazard can arise concerning this question as well. That is, some argue that people will be damned only if they reject Christ after hearing the Gospel. But the moral hazard here is: we should thus never preach the Gospel or send missionaries, because then we are giving people the chance to reject the Gospel.

In reality:. We have two options: separate from our sins by trusting in Christ, and dwell with God forever; or cling to our sins, in which case God will grant our wish and separate us from Himself for eternity. When we understand the origin of death and the Gospel of Jesus Christ as proclaimed in the Bible, then we can understand why this world is the way it is and how there can be a loving God in the midst of tragedy, violence, suffering, and death.

Which view of death do you accept? Is it one that makes God an ogre responsible for millions of years of death, disease, and suffering? Or is it one that places the blame on our sin, and pictures our Creator God as a loving, merciful Saviour who wept over the city of Jerusalem, who wept at the tomb of His friend Lazarus, and who weeps for all of us?

But we showed above, atheism provides the basis for no coherent ethical theory. Thus atrocities in the name of atheism are not inconsistent with it. And the corrective for faulty application of Christianity is not atheism but correct biblical application of Christianity. This was thoroughly documented by Rudolph Rummel b. Between 1, and 4, people were executed for heresy over its year span. Thus its rate of carrying out the death penalty was lower than the state of Texas today, and Stalin killed that many before breakfast.

Furthermore, Inquisition trials were often fairer and more lenient than their secular counterparts—indeed, some criminals uttered heresies precisely so they would be transferred to the Inquisition courts from the civil courts. They killed fewer than 25 people, and were stopped when Christians protested at the travesty of justice in the unfair trials. While many people attack Christianity for the Crusades, an increasing number of historians regard them as a belated response to centuries of Islamic aggression.

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The Muslims quickly conquered the Iberian Peninsula well before the Crusades. Also, just think about the historic centres of Christianity such as Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria and the rest of North Africa—they are now Muslim lands, converted at the point of the sword. And after the crusades, the Muslim Turks conquered the ancient land of Asia Minor, the birthplace of the Apostle Paul, the site of many of his missionary journeys and home of the Seven Churches of the book of Revelation.

In this, they were following the example of Muhammad himself. Strive against the disbelievers and the hypocrites and be stern with them. Jesus reserved some of his strongest criticism for the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. But he in no way condemned the righteousness that they stood for in public. Matthew —3 records:. Thus the charge of hypocrisy was not an attack on the morality they preached but on their failure to live up to it.

He actually told his followers to be even more righteous than them Matthew We are so upset by hypocrisy precisely because we recognize that something intrinsically good has been debased and let down by a failure to meet the standard proclaimed. The atheist criticism amounts to preferring that we both say and do the wrong thing rather than say the right thing and do the wrong thing.