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UN calls on Saudi Arabia to halt death sentences on minors

UN human rights experts are urging Saudi Arabia to immediately halt the execution of six individuals sentenced to death for alleged crimes committed when they were under the age of 18.

Mr. Ali al-Nimr, Mr. Dawood al-Marhoon, Mr. Abdullah al-Zaher, Mr. Mujtaba al-Sweikat, Mr. Salman Qureish and Mr. Abdulkarim al-Hawaj face imminent execution. They were arrested and sentenced to death for charges that the experts previously have considered to represent criminalization of the exercise of fundamental rights, including freedom of assembly and expression, when they were aged less than 18 years old. They were allegedly tortured and ill-treated, forced to confess, denied adequate legal assistance during trial and never had access to an effective complaint mechanism.

“Death penalty sentences and executions for crimes committed by persons below the age of 18 at the time of the offence run contrary to international law and standards,” the experts said. “As a State Party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Saudi Arabia is under an obligation to treat everyone under the age of 18 as a child. Children should never be subject to the death penalty, this practice violates an existing norm of customary international law and renders the punishment tantamount to torture”.

“In these circumstances, the execution of these six individuals would constitute arbitrary executions,” the experts said.

The experts recalled that Saudi Arabia recently embarked on a review of its Law number 114 on Juveniles. They regretted, however, that the amendments introduced into the legislation continue to fail to adequately protect children. The new law still allows for the death penalty to be imposed on child offenders aged between 15 and 18.
“Saudi Arabia must ensure that children who have not benefited from a fair trial be immediately released and that those among them who were sentenced to death have their sentence commuted in line with international juvenile justice standards and the Committee of the Rights of the Child’s recommendations in 2016,” the experts said.
“Saudi Arabia should promptly amend its legislation with a view to unambiguously prohibiting the imposition of the death sentence on children.”
The experts are in contact with Saudi authorities regarding the cases.

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