Saudi Arabia has commuted the death sentences of three young Shia men to ten years imprisonment following a lengthy review carried out by the authorities. The Kingdom’s state-backed Human Rights Commission (HRC) made the announcement yesterday.
The three men involved are Ali Al-Nimr, Dawoud Al-Marhoon and Abdullah Al-Zaher, who were sentenced to death in 2016 for participating in anti-government protests. They were all legally minors at the time of their arrests, with Al-Nimr and Al-Marhoon both 17 in 2012, and Al-Zaher just 15 when he was arrested in 2011.
The commutation follows a royal decree issued by King Salman in April last year that Saudi Arabia would no longer use the death penalty on those convicted for crimes committed as minors. Such individuals will instead be imprisoned for a maximum of 10 years. It also ruled that those minors who had already served 10 years or more would be released following a review of their cases. That ruling delayed and brought into question the sentences handed down on the three young Shia, leading to a review of their cases in September.
As the three prisoners have already spent over nine years in prison and their time served will be applied in accordance with the ruling, the HRC told the British news agency Reuters that they will be released next year.
Although Saudi Arabia was last year reported to have executed a record number of 800 people over the past five years of King Salman’s reign and 185 in 2019 alone, the number of executions carried out reduced drastically to only 27 in 2020.