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Saudi Arabia executes man contrary to royal decree, rights groups say

Darwish’s execution is against the law, which is determined by a royal decree issued last year’s March, rights groups said.

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On Tuesday, the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Interior issued a statement reporting that Mustafa Hashem Al Darwish had been executed in Dammam. Upon his execution, rights groups made statements reacting to the incident indicating that Darwish’s death by Saudi authorities is a clear violation of the Kingdom’s laws.

Rights groups reaction is based on a royal decree which was issued in March 2020. According to this decree, Saudi Arabia acknowledged stopping giving the death penalty to people who committed crimes while they are under the age of 18. Instead, those people serve up to 10 years in juvenile detention. The decree also decided that this regulation would be applied retroactively.

Now, rights groups claimed that Mustafa Hashem Al Darwish committed the offenses being charged against him when he was 17. Therefore, his execution was carried out illicitly.

According to the official records reached by Reuters, “participating in armed rebellion,” “seeking to disturb security by rioting,” and “sowing discord” are among the offenses that being charged against Darwish. Additionally, a signed confession of Darwish noted that he participated in more than ten protests between 2011 and 2012.

However, the same records do not specify the exact time that Darwish committed these crimes, and rights groups say he was 17 at the time of these incidents. Under these circumstances, his case should have been heard under the reformed law, the rights groups added.

Anti-death penalty organization Reprieve and Amnesty International stated that Darwish had been questioned under duress and had retracted his testimony stating it was obtained through torture in court. Reprieve added that his family had not been notified about his execution, and they had learned it by reading the news online.

Darwish’s family said in a statement, “Since his arrest, we have known nothing but pain. It is a living death for the whole family.”

By the way, it was also indicated that the March 2020 royal decree was not published in the official gazette as contrary to normal practice. The Saudi authorities have yet commented on the latest incident.

Human rights issues in the Kingdom have raised eyebrows, particularly in the western world. Earlier this month, a group of British lawmakers wrote a joint letter addressing Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, calling him to seek a commutation of Darwish’s sentence on his visit to Riyadh.

According to the statement issued following Raab’s meeting with Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, the British Foreign Secretary mentioned his concerns about the human rights issues in Saudi Arabia, “notably around justice reform.”

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