01/31/2006, 00.00
Saudi Arabia - Iran
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UN to Saudi Arabia: An end to the execution of minors

At least 126 people on death row for crimes committed while still minors.  Concern also for the execution of minors in Iran.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Hrw) – Saudi Arabia must halt the execution of minors.  The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child made the recommendation public January 27th last.

According to Human Rights Watch (Hrw) in the Kingdom there are over 126 people on death row for crimes they committed while still minors, some when they were as young as 13.

It is – says the UN Commission – "a serious violation of the fundamental rights" as laid out by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified also by Saudi Arabia in 1996, which prohibits capital punishment and sentences of life imprisonment without possibility of release for persons under the age of 18 at the time of the crime and guarantees children accused of a crime the right to legal or other assistance in the preparation and presentation of their defence.  The committee said it was "deeply alarmed" over the discretionary power judges hold to treat children as adults in cases involving capital punishment and has called on Saudi Arabia "to immediately suspend the execution of all death penalties imposed on persons for having committed a crime before the age of 18".

"It appears that the Saudi government is not serious about honouring the commitments it has made under international human rights treaties," said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch. "This shows the large gap between Saudi Arabia's human rights obligations and its daily practice".

In September 2005, Human Rights Watch urged the Saudi government to commute the death sentence of 14-year-old Ahmad D., sentenced to death in July 2005 for killing another child when he was 13. Ahmad D. did not have a lawyer and he only confessed under police questioning, he was detained in solitary confinement during the investigation and the court reportedly refused his father's request to have a psychological examination determine his maturity.
In the last few months Hrw also dealt with a similar situation in Iran, where on July 19th last two youths were executed for having sexually abused a child, when they were minors.   Before the two youths were put to death, each also received 228 lashes for theft, disturbing public order, and consuming alcohol.

In 2004 Iran condemned at least four young people to death for crimes committed when they were minors, recent that says there are at least 30 juvenile offenders now on death row.

Elsewhere in the world, only China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, and the United States are known to have put juvenile offenders to death in the past five years. The United States executed nine juvenile offenders during this period; the other countries are each known to have put one juvenile offender to death. The U.S. Supreme Court declared the juvenile death penalty unconstitutional in March 2005. (PB)

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