Responding to credible information received by Amnesty International that Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court secretly upheld the death sentences of two young men who were under the age of 18 at the time of their alleged crimes without notifying their families or lawyers, Amnesty International’s Middle East Researcher Dana Ahmed said:
“Abdullah al-Derazi and Jalal Labbad were convicted of terrorism-related charges over their participation in anti-government protests in grossly unfair trials that primarily relied on torture-tainted confessions. The Saudi authorities have sentenced them to death, reneging on their own promises to end the use of the death penalty in cases of individuals who were children at the time of their alleged crimes. The young men could now be put to death at any moment after the King ratifies their death sentences, as they have exhausted all domestic legal remedies.
“We call on the King to refrain from ratifying the death sentences of these young men, and for the competent authorities to quash their death sentences to put an end to this travesty of justice. The authorities must also launch an investigation into the defendants’ claims of torture and other ill-treatment, recorded in court documents reviewed by Amnesty International, including severe beatings, sexual violence and electrocution, which the court failed to investigate.”
The Saudi Human Rights Commission told Amnesty International in a May 2023 letter that ‘the application of the death penalty on juveniles for ta’zir crimes has been completely abolished’. Ta’zir crimes, which both young men have been convicted of, are crimes for which the death penalty is not mandated under Islamic law.
On 16 October 2023, a UN expert expressed concern at the imminent execution of Abdullah Al-Derazi and called on the Saudi authorities to consider adopting a moratorium on the use of the death penalty and undertaking a systematic review of all death penalty cases, particularly those involving child defendants.
The use of the death penalty against people who were under 18 years of age at the time of the crime they have been convicted of is strictly prohibited under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Saudi Arabia has ratified.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution.
Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s top executioners. Between January and October 2023, the Saudi authorities have already executed 112 people. In 2022, the kingdom executed 196 people, the highest number of annual executions that Amnesty International has recorded in the country in the last 30 years.