Riyadh, Saudi Arabia:
Saudi Arabia ended the death penalty for minor crimes after whips were effectively abolished when the Kingdom attempted to blunt criticism of its human rights record.
The reforms underline the de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's urge to modernize the ultra-conservative kingdom, which has long been associated with a fundamentalist burden on Wahhabi Islam.
The death penalty has been removed for those convicted of crimes committed as a minor, said Awwad Alawwad, President of the Human Rights Commission, in a statement citing a royal decree.
"Instead, the person in a juvenile detention center is sentenced to a term of no more than 10 years," the statement said.
The decree is intended to save at least six men from the Shiite minority who are on death row.
They were accused of taking part in protests against the government during the Arab Spring Uprising when they were under 18.
The United Nations’s human rights experts urged Saudi Arabia last year to end plans to implement them.
"This is an important day for Saudi Arabia," said Awwad Alawwad.
"The decree helps us to introduce a more modern penal code."
The kingdom has one of the highest execution rates in the world. Suspects convicted of terrorism, murder, rape, armed robbery and drug trafficking face the death penalty.
Saudi Arabia executed at least 187 people in 2019, according to official figures. This is the highest number since 1995 when 195 people were killed.
Officials say that people have been executed since January 12.
Human rights groups have repeatedly raised concerns about the fairness of the processes in the Kingdom, an absolute monarchy governed by a strict form of Islamic law.
On Saturday, the HRC announced that Saudi Arabia has effectively abolished whipping as a punishment, which human rights groups have long condemned.
The most famous case of flogging in recent years has been the case of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes in 2014 for "insulting" Islam.
But "hudud" or harsher punishment under Islamic law, such as flogging, still applies to serious crimes, said a Saudi official.
Hudud, which means "borders" in Arabic, is exposed for sins such as rape, murder, or theft.
However, "Hudud" punishments are seldom imposed, as many crimes must be proven by a confession or verified by several adult Muslim witnesses, the official added.