Saudi Arabia executes man arrested for protesting when he was a minor

Saudi Arabia executes man arrested for protesting when he was a minor
Mustafa al-Darwish's execution comes despite legal reforms that should bar Saudi authorities from executing someone convicted of crimes committed when they were a minor.
2 min read
16 June, 2021
Rights groups say Darwish's trial was not fair [Getty]

Saudi authorities have executed a man for alleged offences committed while he was a minor, despite assurances last year that Riyadh would stop the practice.

Mustafa al-Darwish, who was 26 at the time of his death, was charged with forming a terror cell and attempting to carry out an armed revolt.

The evidence presented against him included his participation in more than 10 "riots" between 2011-12 - when thousands of Saudis participated in anti-government protests in which 17 were killed and dozens arrested by authorities.

Prosecutors also used as evidence a photo deemed "offensive to the security forces".

Available court documents and information at the case reveal no evidence for claims Darwish attempted to kill Saudi security officers or engage in other violent crimes.

Darwish was around 17-years-old at the time of the protests but wasn't arrested until 2015, when rights groups say he was tortured into a confession he later recanted. His family denies any involvement in criminal activity.

Darwish was a member of Saudi Arabia's persecuted Shia minority community.

'Empty promises of reform'

Last year, Saudi Arabia issued a royal decree stating the kingdom would no longer execute individuals who were under 18 at the time of their offence.

The decree said the reform would be applied retroactively, meaning Darwish's sentence should have been altered to a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Human rights groups have condemned his execution.

"Once again the Saudi authorities have shown that their claims to abolished the death penalty for children are worthless," Ali al-Dubaisy of the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights said in a statement carried by Reprieve. 

"The cruelty of this execution, without warning, for the crime of joining protests as a teenager, is the true face of Mohammed Bin Salman’s Saudi Arabia – not the endless empty promises of reform," he said.

Four of the 53 people currently facing death sentences in Saudi Arabia were convicted of crimes committed when they were under 18, according to the ESOHR.