Saudi Arabia: UN expert alarmed by imminent execution of child defendant
16 October 2023
GENEVA (16 October 2023) – A UN expert today expressed concern at the imminent execution in Saudi Arabia of Abdullah Al-Derazi, who was a child when he allegedly committed his crime.
“Despite Saudi Arabia issuing a Royal Decree in 2020 aiming to abolish the death penalty for child defendants, including those convicted of terrorism offences, it is deeply concerning that the application of the decree remains uncertain,” said Morris Tidball-Binz the UN Special Rapporteur on summary, extrajudicial or arbitrary executions.
Abdullah Al-Derazi was arrested in August 2014, for crimes he is alleged to have committed when he was 17 years old. He was reportedly disappeared and physically and psychologically tortured while in custody and forced into signing a false confession stating that he was part of a terrorist group.
“There were seven charges listed on Al-Derazi's chargesheet, none of which were dated. The prosecution’s only evidence was his allegedly coerced confession,” Tidball-Binz said.
The Saudi Supreme Court has recently upheld Al-Derazi’s death sentence and he faces an imminent threat of execution. Saudi authorities rarely inform family members or lawyers before carrying out executions.
“While Saudi Arabia has taken some positive steps regarding the treatment of children in the criminal justice system, such as the promulgation of its 2018 Juvenile Act, information received indicates that it still sentences and enforces the death penalty against offenders below the age of 18,” the Special Rapporteur said. He added that the Juvenile Act does not extend to mandatory and retributive death sentences, allowing for the execution of children sentenced under the provisions of the Sharia legal system.
UN experts have previously condemned the overly broad definition of “terrorism” under Saudi law, which facilitates the qualification of civil disobedience and critical views of the Government as “terrorist” acts.
The Special Rapporteur called on Saudi Arabia to publish the text of the 2020 Royal Decree and enforce it for all defendants below the age of 18, regardless of their crime.
Tidball-Binz also urged the Government of Saudi Arabia to consider adopting a moratorium on the use of the death penalty and undertake a systematic review of all death penalty cases, particularly those involving child defendants.
“Given the irreversibility of the death penalty, I urge the Saudi judiciary and other institutions in Saudi Arabia to ensure that Abdullah Al-Derazi’s execution is not carried out,” the Special Rapporteur said.
Morris Tidball-Binz is the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions appointed in 2021. He is a medical doctor specialized in forensic science, human rights and humanitarian action and has contributed to the development and worldwide use of forensic science to investigate and document extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, enforced disappearances, torture and detention conditions, as well as to humanitarian action in armed conflicts and natural catastrophes.
The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups 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.