United Nations human rights experts have welcomed the decision by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to commute the death sentences of three individuals sentenced for crimes allegedly committed when they were under the age of 18.
The UN experts explained statement “This decision is an important step towards compliance with international human rights obligations, especially under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits execution for crimes committed by those under the age of 18 years.”
On February 7, the Saudi authorities reduced the death sentences issued against three convicts in the kingdom to ten years in prison, according to officials.
The three convicts, Ali Al-Nimr, Daoud Al-Marhoun, and Abdullah Al-Zahir, were arrested in 2012 and were at the time minors, and were charged with terrorism-related charges for their participation in anti-government protests during the Arab Spring uprisings.
A statement by the Human Rights Commission in Saudi Arabia stated that the authorities had returned the verdict in the case of accused Ali al-Nimr, abolishing the death penalty and reducing it to ten years imprisonment, including the time he had spent since his arrest in February 2012.
At the time, the commission indicated that the two sentences issued against both convicted Dawood Al-Marhoun and Abdullah Al-Zahir will be reduced from death to ten years imprisonment, provided that they will be released in 2022.
The decision comes after the commission announced last April that the Kingdom would abolish all death sentences issued against those convicted of crimes committed while minors.
However, the UN experts say that “there are still serious concerns regarding the convictions of the youths and the ongoing detention that must now be resolved urgently.”
The experts expressed grave concern about the fate of everyone who remained on the death row, “including Abdullah Al-Huwaiti, who was also sentenced to death for a crime he allegedly committed while he was a minor and is now facing execution after a trial marred by allegations of torture.”
The experts emphasized that, “In no case shall the death penalty be applied to individuals who exercise their basic rights to freedom of expression, assembly, religion or belief.”
The Kingdom’s Human Rights Commission announced last January that 27 executions were carried out in Saudi Arabia in 2020, and this outcome represents a decrease of 85 percent compared to the previous year, partly due to the suspension of the death penalty for offenses related to drug smuggling.
Last April, the commission announced that Saudi Arabia had abolished the punishment of flogging, in a move welcomed by human rights organizations.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman seeks to contain international criticism of his country’s human rights record and its lack of transparency in the judicial system, especially since the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in his country’s consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.