• Saudi Arabia says it will no longer impose the death penalty on individuals who committed crimes when they were minors.
  • Last week, the country also banned flogging as a potential punishment, opting to impose fines or prison sentences instead.
  • The president of the Saudi Human Rights Commission, Awwad Alawwad, said in a statement that the move was aimed at “establishing a more modern penal code” and added that “more reforms will be coming.”
  • Saudi Arabia has faced criticism for its troubling human-rights record in the past and is one of the few countries in the world to still carry out executions via beheading.
  • A new report by Amnesty International published last week indicated that Saudi Arabia beheaded a record 184 people in 2019, a 23% increase from the year prior.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Saudi Arabia says it will no longer impose the death penalty on individuals who committed crimes when they were minors in an attempt to shape up its troubling human rights record.

The Saudi Human Rights Commission, a Saudi government organization that claims to be independent, announced the easing of the country’s strict penal code on Sunday night.

According to the royal decree ordered by Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, individuals who received a death sentence for a crime they committed while they were a minor can no longer face execution. The punishment instead will be a prison sentence of “no longer than 10 years in a juvenile detention facility.”

President of the Human Rights Commission, Awwad Alawwad, said in a statement that it was an “important day” for Saudi Arabia.

“The decree helps us in establishing a more modern penal code,” he said. “More reforms will be coming.”

Last week, the country also banned flogging as a potential punishment, opting to impose fines or prison sentences instead. Alawwad called the move “a momentous step forward in Saudi Arabia’s human rights agenda.”

The country’s troubling human rights record has been thrust into the spotlight following the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018. But Saudi Arabia has faced criticism for human-rights abuses in the past.

The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen has led to the deaths of thousands of civilians. The Kingdom has been implicated as a sponsor of terrorist organizations, it has been accused of playing a role in some of the worst terror attacks in history, and its practice of jailing and publicly punishing activists nearly brought it to the brink of a diplomatic crisis.

A new report by Amnesty International published last week indicated that Saudi Arabia beheaded a record 184 people in 2019, a 23% increase from the year prior. Most of those killed were foreign nationals, and Saudi Arabia is one of the few countries in the world that still executes offenders via beheading.

“The death penalty is an abhorrent and inhuman punishment,” said Clare Agar, Amnesty’s senior director for research, advocacy, and policy in a statement.

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