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UN experts call on Saudi Arabia to halt death sentences on children

GENEVA (29 October 2018) – 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.

ENDS

*The UN experts: Ms. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Ms Renate Winter, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child; Mr. Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the rights of opinion and expression; Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

The Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child is the body of 18 independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by its State parties. It also monitors the Optional Protocols to the Convention, on involvement of children in armed conflict and on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; as well as a third Optional Protocol which will allow individual children to submit complaints regarding specific violations of their rights.

UN Human Rights, country page – Saudi Arabia 

For further information and media requests, please email eje@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact
Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383)  jlaurence@ohchr.org

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