Saudi Arabia Abolishes Death Penalty for Minors

  • "This is an important day for Saudi Arabia," Saudi Human Rights Commission chairman Awwad Alawwad said.
  • The order was issued by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to a statement issued by the Saudi Human Rights Commission.
  • Public executions and other forms of corporal punishment are still being carried out.

Saudi Arabia has banned the death penalty for minors, its state-backed Human Rights Commission announced on Sunday. The move follows a series of reforms that have begun in Saudi Arabia, pushed by the royal family. The day before the ruling, the Saudi government lifted the flogging sentence in the country following sharp international criticism.

Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (colloquially known as MBS) is the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and Deputy Prime Minister.  He has been described as the power behind the throne of his father, King Salman.

“Instead, the individual will receive a prison sentence of no longer than 10 years in a juvenile detention facility,” the commission’s chairman, Awwad Alawwad, said. According to the decree, the maximum sentence for criminals under the age of ten will be suspended from now on.

“This is an important day for Saudi Arabia,” Awwad Alawwad said. “The decree helps us in establishing a more modern penal code and demonstrates the kingdom’s commitment to following through on key reforms across all sectors of our country.”

Until now, this punishment has been used for criminals who have committed murder, as well as for the crime of “disturbing public order” and “having illicit relationships.” In such cases, the judges of the court are required in the future to use imprisonment or fines or to serve in public service centers. The order was issued by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to a statement issued by the Saudi Human Rights Commission.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been the successor to the King of Saudi Arabia for three years. He had promised to work to open economic doors and social reform in the country, but human rights groups said the move was accompanied by a sharp increase in criticism from critics of the Saudi government.

Capital punishment is a legal penalty in Saudi Arabia. Death sentences in Saudi Arabia are pronounced almost exclusively based on the system of judicial sentencing discretion (tazir) rather than Sharia-prescribed (hudud) punishments, following the classical principle that hudud penalties should be avoided if possible.

According to Amnesty International, most executions are taking place in Saudi Arabia, after China and Iran. In its latest report, the organization said that Saudi Arabia had executed 184 people last year, at least one of whom had committed crimes as a child. The death penalty for persons under the age of 18 is contrary to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Saudi Arabia has also signed the convention.

According to the Associated Press, the abolition of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia may not apply to offenders who have participated in terrorist operations while under the age of 18. According to the new order, six members of the country’s Shiite minority will be sentenced to death.  In Saudi Arabia, judges have been allowed to issue sentences based on sharia law, and there is no codified penal code.

Despite the announcement of new reforms in the country, public executions and other forms of corporal punishment are still being carried out. Those who are convicted of theft are still subject to amputation, while those who commit murder or terrorism are beheaded.

Saudi Arabia has also come under fire from human rights groups for cracking down on dissidents and civil society activists. In particular, the brutal murder of critical journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, sparked a wave of international criticism. The Saudi Crown Prince is said to have been directly involved in the assassination and to have been involved in its organization.

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Joyce Davis

My history goes back to 2002 and I  worked as a reporter, interviewer, news editor, copy editor, managing editor, newsletter founder, almanac profiler, and news radio broadcaster.

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