Saudi Arabia Ends Death Penalty For Minors
Saudi Arabia has put an end to death penalty for crimes committed by minors. Ever since Mohammed bin Salman ascended as the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia in 2017, he has made changes to the country’s notoriously punitive penal code, as part of a larger effort to revamp the country’s reputation globally.
Citing a royal decree, the Saudi Human Rights Commission issued a statement ending capital punishment for individuals convicted of crimes committed when they were minors. Instead, the individuals will now receive a prison sentence of up to 10 years in juvenile detention facilities. “This is an important day for Saudi Arabia. The decree helps us in establishing a more modern penal code. More reforms will be coming,” Awwad Alawwad, President of the country’s Human Rights Commission, said. A report by Amnesty International states that said Saudi Arabia had executed 184 people in 2019, which marks a 23 percent increase from 2018, and includes, at least, one person convicted of a crime committed as a minor.
Six men, who were accused of taking part in anti-government protests during the Arab Spring uprisings while they were minors, are currently on death row, and may benefit from the decision. However, the authorities are yet to clarify when the abolition of capital punishment will come into effect. In October 2018, UN human rights experts had appealed to Saudi Arabia to stop their execution citing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was ratified by Saudi Arabia in 1996.
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Last week, the country had banned flogging — a punishment in which the victim is hit repeatedly with a wooden cane. The General Commission for the Supreme Court of Saudi Arabia, which abolished flogging as a form of punishment, stated that it will be replaced by prison sentences, fines or a combination of both.
Ever since the news of blogger and government critic, Raif Badawi, being sentenced to 1,000 lashes in 2014, came out, Saudi Arabia received international backlash on corporal punishment. Saudi Arabia’s decision to finally abolish flogging came soon after the death of human rights activist Abdullah al-Hamid, who died in custody last week, amid ensuing allegations of medical neglect.
“I would not call it a breakthrough. I would call it a positive step. This is a welcome change but it should have happened years ago. I surely hope he intends to go after the whole justice system, because it is very flawed in both regulations and implementation,” Adam Coogle, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Division at Human Rights Watch, commented.