By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Saudi Arabia on Sunday passed a royal decree ending the death penalty for crimes committed by minors.
“Instead, the individual will receive a prison sentence of no longer than ten years in a juvenile detention facility,” the statement read.
This reform comes after another decree on Saturday ordering judges to end the practice of flogging, replacing it with jail time, community service or fines. In the past, court-ordered floggings in Saudi Arabia have drawn criticism from human rights groups.
“This decree helps us to establish a more modern penal system and demonstrates the kingdom’s commitment to continuing key reforms in all sectors of our country,” explained Awwad Alawwad, the president of Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights Commission,
This latest decree could spare the lives of at least six men who are on death row. They were arrested after taking part in anti-government protests while they were minors during the Arab Spring uprisings.
Saudi Arabia has one of the world’s highest rates of execution, with suspects convicted of varying crimes like rape, homicide, armed robbery and drug trafficking facing the death penalty. Human rights groups have long called on the kindgom to abolish the death penalty, particulary for crimes committed by minors.