Saudi Arabia will no longer impose the death penalty on people who committed crimes while they were minors, according to the country’s Human Rights Commission, replacing execution with a maximum penalty of 10 years in a juvenile detention centre.

A record 184 people were executed in Saudi Arabia in 2019, at least one of whom was a man convicted of a crime committed as a minor, according to human rights group Amnesty International. 

“This is an important day for Saudi Arabia,” said Awwad Alawwad, president of the Human Rights Commission. “The decree helps us in establishing a more modern penal code.”

On Saturday, the Human Rights Commission also announced that Saudi Arabia had effectively banned the widely condemned practice of flogging as a form of punishment, to be replaced by prison sentences, fines, or a mixture of both.

The Kingdom is seeking to blunt criticism over its abysmal human rights record, as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pushes to modernise the Kingdom away from its ultra-conservative image. Along with Alawwad’s comments, the trajectory of reforms points to Saudi Arabia’s inching away towards a fairer penal code. Human rights groups are, however, considering it a modest, if necessary, win. 

Main image: Amr Nabil, AP Photo.

Main square image: Fayza Nureldine, AFP.