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Kill them Children: A new dangerous governmental Saudi justification for legalizing children’s Beheading

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In a dangerous progress related to the fate of a number of threatened children of being beheading, Saudi Arabia submitted on December 13th, 2017, a worrying response to the UN about specifying a loose definition of a child age which contradicts the Conviction on the Rights of the Child. It said that what specify the legal age of an individual are theexistence of “sensual and measured signs of maturity that give him the ability to fulfill religious obligations, engage in the financial transactions and to take criminal responsibility”, which is completely contradicted with its previous statements and reports.

The Saudi respond came after 8 human rights independent experts in UN, whom are specialized in cases of executions, torture, arbitrary detention, right of opinion and expression, the right of peaceful assembly and the right of association; submitted a report that included questions on a number of events tackling the capital punishment in Saudi Arabia.

The report mentioned that among the names of the individuals who face the capital punishment are minors who faced non-serious charges, in which some of them are related to participation in peaceful demonstrations. Also, the report called on the government to “provide information on procedures taken to halt their arbitrary execution”.

Moreover, the government’s response denied that and considered them to have been convicted with “an extreme serious crimes which threatens the national security”. The official response also mentioned that they had a “public and fair trial before an independent court, and the verdicts respect all human rights rules and principals that comply with the Islamic law”. It also pointed out that “capital punishment is not permitted on any criminal that lacks the complete legal capacity at the time of the crime; which is in line with the Kingdom’s obligations as a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

On March 22nd, 2018, the official Saudi reaffirmed its declarations that considered the age of the juvenile is not 18 years, where the media reported that the Shura Council, which is fully appointed by the king, had approved the government’s amendments to the procedures concerning juvenile cases, (by amending the age of the statutory punishment of the offense to the age of 15).

The Saudi’s response on the special rapporteurs report and the declaration of its modifiedjuvenile system, completely contradicted the previous laws and obligations which affirmed that the age of a child is in conformity with the Convention of the Rights of the Child, which specified that the child’s age is 18 years. ESOHR monitored and explored governmental texts and statements since 2009, in which Saudi Arabia confirms its commitment to the age of the child stipulated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child:

  • In July 2009, Saudi Arabia issued The Trafficking in Persons (Offenses) Act, which defined a child as: “who didn’t exceed (eighteen) years (article 1).
  • In March 2015, during the opening of the 28th session of HRC in Geneva, the President of the Human Rights Commission, Bandar Al-Aiban, considered the child as”anyone under the age of 18 years”.
  • In the Saudi report directed to the Committee on the Rights of Child on April 8th, 2015, and in accordance with Saudi Arabia’s commitment to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Saudi Arabica indicated in paragraph (70) of its report that: “The definition of the child in these systems is in line with the requirements of article 1 of the Convention, which was also defined by the child protection system and the Trafficking in Persons (Offenses) Act as “every human being under the age of 18”.Furthermore, a juvenile is defined under the Detention Regulation and the Juvenile Homes’ Regulation as every human being below the age of 18. The age of legal capacity and legal responsibility is raised to 20 when it comes to the application, subject to particular conditions, of disciplinary measures against drug users. As well as the definition of the child in the decision to establish the Public Administration for Social Protection, which was established in the Ministry of Social Affairs, as it is a specialized administration that cares for the child according to the age set by the World Social Regulations.
  • The child protection system which was adopted in November 2014 defines the child as: every person under the age of eighteen of his age.
  • In an interactive dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict in March 2017, Saudi Ambassador to the United Nations Abdul Aziz Al-Wasal, indicated that Saudi Arabia was committed to protecting children, explaining that the officer service law provided that the appointment of an officer must be 19 years old to ensure that children are not involved in armed conflict, harmful activities and the principle of the best interests of the child.


The European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights believes that the change in the Saudi discourse regarding the age of the child and the commitment of the Saudi government to the international definition that the child is anyone under the age of eighteen is a serious and dangerous indication of the lives of children detained in Saudi Arabia. Moreover, such this change could be an introduction to the execution of the 8 children that facing death sentencesof which also ESOHR has documented their cases: Ali Al-Nimir, Abdullah Al-Zaher, Dawood Al-Marhoon, Saed Al-Skafi, Abdul Kareem Al-Hawaj, Salman Al-Kuraish, Moujtaba Al-Suwaiket, and Abdullah Al-Sareeh.

Furthermore, ESOHR considers that the Saudi response on the Special Rapporteurs on children,who are facing death penalties at any time, is only an attempt to justify the issued sentences against them, which have been finally ratified. The organisationalso points out that giving the judges the decision to identify the age of majority israising the concerns about further violations of laws that protect children. Which is a clear and flagrant violation of Saudi commitments with regard to the international laws and treaties it has ratified, specially the Convention on the Rights of the Child; also a decline in years of declarations and statement in which it recognizes the age of the child according to the international Convention of the Rights of the Child that it joined in 1996.

ESOHR confirmed that in addition to the failure of the Saudi government respect to its commitments regarding the child’s age, its response on the communiqué was like many fallacies as the children faced criminal charges that threatens the national security. In addition to its ignorance of the facts that they were imposed to torture and the governmental claim that they had a fair public trial.

Finally, the organisation confirms that Saudi Arabia has provided many internal and international commitments that define the child as every person who didn’t exceed eighteen years. And that will track the confirmation on protecting the rights of each person in the age of childhood, and especiallywith regard to the protection of his right to life.

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