Saudi Arabia reduces maximum penalty for young offenders

'This is an important day for the kingdom' says official, announcing changes to sentencing for juvenile criminals

FILE - In this Oct. 14, 2019 file photo, Saudi Arabia's King Salman attends the official welcome ceremony for Russian President Vladimir Putin in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.  Salman ordered an end to the death penalty for crimes committed by individuals when they were minors, according to a statement Sunday, April 26, 20202, by a top official. The decision comes on the heels of another which orders judges to end the practice of flogging and to issue in its place jail time, fines or community service, bringing to a close one of the kingdom’s most controversial forms of public punishment. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool)
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Minors who commit serious crimes in Saudi Arabia will now face a maximum sentence of 10 years in a young offender's detention centre, the Saudi Human Rights Commission said on Sunday.

The previous highest penalty for minors was the death sentence.

"Any individuals who received a death sentence for crimes committed while he or she is a minor can no longer face execution," commission president Awwad Alawwad said after a decree by King Salman.

"Instead, the individual will receive a prison sentence of no longer than 10 years in a juvenile detention facility."

Mr Alawwad did not say when the change would take effect.

"This is an important day for Saudi Arabia," he said. "The decree helps us in establishing a more modern penal code and demonstrates the kingdom’s commitment to following through on key reforms across all sectors of our country."

The announcement came two days after the kingdom in effect scrapped the punishment of flogging, in a decision by the General Commission for the Supreme Court.

The punishment will be replaced by prison terms or fines.