On Sunday, October 10, 2021, the “Washington Post” newspaper published a about death sentences based on crimes committed by juveniles (minors), despite Saudi Arabia’s announcement last year to stop it. The newspaper cited an execution that took place last June against the young Mustafa Darwish.
In 2020, it appeared that Saudi Arabia had abandoned the use of the death penalty for crimes committed by juveniles, but the execution in the summer cast doubt on this particular reform.
The Saudi Human Rights Committee stated that the practice was banned, saying that “no person in Saudi Arabia will be executed for a crime committed by a minor, according to the royal order issued in March 2020. But this royal order appears to have never been fulfilled. The execution of Mustafa Darwish prompted the United Nations to “reprimand” Saudi Arabia, while four Saudi human rights officials wrote a letter stating that Darwish was under 18 when he committed his alleged crimes, which was joining anti-government protests.
On June 15, Darwish family learned from news reports that their 26-year-old son had been executed, and according to human rights defenders, his family did not receive any prior notice of the execution.
Darwish was accused of trying to kill security officers and shooting at security patrols. The charges also included “seeking to destabilize the social fabric” by participating in protests, receiving phone messages about planned protests, making and using Molotov cocktails, in addition to possession of weapons and covering up the protestors.
The execution of Darwish confirms that the judicial system in Saudi Arabia is operating without any changes regardless of the announcement regarding the abolition of the sentence.
Activists stress that “this clear violation of state policy is ambiguous, because the Arabic version of the resolution differs from the English version,” and shows that “the Arabic version prohibits the death penalty for juveniles only for non-violent crimes, such as drug crimes.”