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Saudi Arabia ends capital punishment for minors

Saudi Arabia ends capital punishment for minors
The Saudi flag is seen during a session of the consultative council in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Sunday's decree was announced nearly a week after Amnesty International said in its 2019 review Saudi Arabia executed 184 people last year. File Photo by Mike Nelson/EPA

April 27 (UPI) -- Saudi Arabia will no longer execute individuals convicted of crimes committed when they were minors, the U.N. Human Rights Commission said.

Citing a royal decree signed by King Salman, Human Rights Commission President Awwad Alawwad announced the decision Sunday, saying it will help modernize the Middle Eastern country's penal code.

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"The decree means that any individuals who received a death sentence for crimes committed while he or she is a minor can no longer face execution," Alawwad said in a statement. "Instead, the individuals will receive a prison sentence of no longer than 10 years in a juvenile detention facility."

Such use of capital punishment is against the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Saudi Arabia has ratified.

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The decree was announced nearly a week after Amnesty International released its 2019 global review of the death penalty detailing that Saudi Arabia executed 184 people last year, putting the Kingdom among the top five countries that administer executions as punishment.

The report said the majority of Saudi Arabia's executions were for drug and murder convictions, though the international human rights organization said it had documented an increase of the punishment being used against religious minority dissidents.

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It was unclear when the decree was issued or when it would take effect but it was announced days after Saudi Arabia ended flogging as punishment in disciplinary cases.

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Alawwad said the two decisions are examples of how Saudi Arabia is reforming its human rights record and reflects the nation's commitment to Prince Mohammed bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz's Vision 2030 plan that aims to reduce the country's economic dependence on oil. The plan calls for several progressive social reforms, including increasing the presence of women in the workplace.

"More reforms will be coming," Alawwad said.

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