One of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child is that a person under the age of 18 - or else under the age of majority - can not be executed. Two countries - Saudi Arabia, and Sudan - still have the death penalty for juveniles, or, rather have used it since 2009. Iran appears to have abolished it in 2012.

These executions constitute blatantly breaking international law. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia concerning the Saudi scenario regarding juvenile capital punishment:

The Committee on the Rights of the Child, which reviewed Saudi Arabia's treatment of children under the Convention in January 2005, strongly condemned the government for its practice of imposing the death penalty on juveniles, calling it "a serious violation of the fundamental rights". The committee said it was "deeply alarmed" over the discretionary power judges hold to treat juveniles as adults: In its 2004 report the Saudi Arabian government had stated that it "never imposes capital punishment on persons ... below the age of 18". The government delegation later acknowledged that a judge could impose the death penalty whenever he decided that the convicted person had reached his or her majority, regardless of the person's actual age at the time of the crime or at the time of the scheduled execution.

The last bit is taken from here. It gives one example of criteria used to determine whether or not a person has reached the age of majority (emphasis mine):

In September 2005, Human Rights Watch urged the Saudi government to commute the death sentence of 14-year-old Ahmad D., sentenced to death in July 2005 for killing another child when he was 13. The court in Dammam tried Ahmad as an adult based on its assessment of the coarseness of his voice and the appearance of pubic hair.

How do Saudi judges decide whether or not a person has become an adult and is eligible for the death penalty?

  • I would just point out that there are other countries that have the death penalty for juveniles other than Sudan and Saudi Arabia, most notably the US, though I'm not sure when they last carried one out.
    – Roy
    May 31, 2015 at 10:22
  • 3
    @Roy, the minimum age in the United States has been 18 since 2005.
    – Mark
    Jun 23, 2015 at 10:30
  • Killing someone based on pubic hair? Yea, right... Nov 9, 2018 at 12:14

1 Answer 1


The Human Rights Watch published a report on children in Saudi Arabia's justice system("Arbitrary procedures for determining age of majority in criminal cases"):

Judicial opinions on when a child can be tried as an adult vary widely, and frequently depend on measures of children’s physical development, contrary to international standards, which call upon states to make determinations of adult competence based on “emotional, mental and intellectual maturity,” and not the child’s physical maturity. For example, Sharia scholar Shaikh Ahmad bin Hamad al-Mazyad, who has served as a senior advisor to the Ministry of Justice for more than 20 years, told Human Rights Watch that judges decide that a person has reached majority (baligh) based on known physical signs of puberty (bulugh, which can also be translated as “majority”), saying that it was acceptable to execute a nine-year-old girl sentenced if she had reached puberty (for further on this see Chapter V, “The Juvenile Death Penalty,” below). He also stated that according to Sharia, age 15 was “the outside limit” for majority (bulugh), so that a child age 15 or older who lacked these signs could still be sentenced and executed if found to have committed murder.
“some experts in fiqh [Islamic jurisprudence] consider the appearance of signs of [physical] maturity to be the equivalent of having reached the age of majority, while other experts in fiqh go toward 20 as the age of majority, and while there is nothing clear in the text of the law in Saudi Arabia specifying this age, it is moving toward being 18.”

On the basis of this report - and the case cited in your question - it seems like physical attributes are the primary issues considered, although age appears to be an issue as well.

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