NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 9, 2008

In Saudi Arabia, breaking the law can lead to the chopping block for a public beheading -- even for minors, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch.

The first fact-finding visit by a human-rights group allowed by the Saudi government turned up disturbing evidence about the country's justice system:

  • Children under 18 are routinely tried as adults, with potential sentences of flogging, amputation, or death.
  • Legal counsel is often unavailable for youth offenders.
  • Juvenile detention facilities are so overcrowded and poorly supervised that minors sometimes end up in the same cells as hardened criminals.
  • At least 12 children have been sentenced to death in recent years, and at least 3 were executed in 2007.

Many of the tens of thousands of children trafficked into the country -- for use as beggars or for sexual exploitation -- end up on the streets, where they are treated as criminals and risk deportation.  Youths can be detained for exchanging phone numbers with the opposite sex, and girls can face prosecution for "seclusion," or being alone with a male who is not a relative. 

Source: "Suffer, Little Children," The Atlantic, July/August 2008.

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