Human rights organizations urge Saudi Arabia to end executions of child offenders News
© WikiMedia (Mehdi Hasan Khan)
Human rights organizations urge Saudi Arabia to end executions of child offenders

A global coalition of human rights organizations sounded the alarm on Monday over the fates of young men facing imminent execution in Saudi Arabia for crimes allegedly committed when they were minors.

In an open letter, the advocacy groups argued that Saudi Arabia’s decision to move forward with the executions of several young men for crimes committed when they were minors flies in the face of the nation’s planned reforms and international standards.

The advocacy groups, which included global organizations like Human Rights Watch and the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, as well as regional and national groups from around the world, wrote:

The approval of new death sentences against minors exposes the reality of Saudi Arabia’s successive promises regarding the death penalty in general and the death penalty against minors in particular. It is impossible to envisage reforms or changes without immediately halting arbitrary death sentences, especially against minors on charges that are not considered the most serious, and after unfair trials.

The letter focused on seven young men, most of whom are members of the country’s Shi’a religious minority, and all of whom have been sentenced to death for crimes allegedly committed between the ages of 14 and 17. The Shi’a minority makes up some 10-15 percent of Saudi Arabia’s population, according to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The country’s Specialized Criminal Court of Appeal (SCCA) recently upheld the death sentences of two of these men — Yousif Al-Manasif and Ali Al-Mubaiouq. Once the Supreme Court rules, the Saudi king will be presented with the execution orders to sign. Execution can occur at any moment thereafter, and per the human rights groups, timing is often difficult to predict.

The SCCA decision placed Al-Manasif and Ali Al-Mubaiouq among the ranks of several other young men awaiting execution as a result of offenses allegedly committed when they were minors, including Jalal Al-Labad and Abdullah Al-Derazi, whose execution orders are awaiting the king’s signature; Jawad  Qureiris and Ali Al-Subaiti, who are awaiting SCCA appeals rulings; and Mahdi Al-Mohsen, who has been preliminarily sentenced to death by the SCCA.

The groups also slammed Saudi authorities for human rights violations experienced by young detainees, including “enforced disappearance, solitary confinement for months, and various forms of torture.”

Saudi Arabia has long been criticized for its prolific and public use of the death penalty, including for non-violent crimes. Last September, Amnesty international Director for the Middle East and North Africa Heba Morayef wrote:

In August alone, Saudi Arabia executed an average of 4 people per week, including one Pakistani man who was executed for drug smuggling. The death penalty is prohibited under international law for drug-related offences, which do not fall under the category of “most serious crimes.”

Amid broader efforts to rehabilitate their international reputation, Saudi authorities have claimed in recent years they planned to end capital punishment for juvenile offenders and non-violent crimes, but have failed to deliver on these vows.