Saudi Arabia abolishes death sentence for minors

Saudi Arabia has banned the death sentence for minors, its state-backed Human Rights Commission has said in a statement. It is the latest in a series of reforms pushed forward by the Saudi royal family.

It comes a day after the kingdom abolished flogging as a punishment.

The commission said that the latest reform would ensure that no-one who committed crimes as minors could receive the death sentence for those crimes.

"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.

Human rights organization Amnesty International lists Saudi Arabia as one of the world's most prolific executioners, after Iran and China. In its latest report, it said the kingdom had executed 184 people in 2019, including at least one person charged with a crime committed as a minor.

Capital punishment for crimes committed by people under the age of 18 runs contrary to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child – which Saudi Arabia has ratified.

"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."

Under the new rules, the lives of six men from the country's minority Shiite community could be spared.

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