Members of Magic Movement, a group of young Bangladeshis, stage a mock execution scene in protest of Saudi Arabia beheading of eight Bangladeshi workers in front of National Museum in Dhaka October 15, 2011. Eight Bangladeshi migrants have been beheaded in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh in public on October 7, as they were sentenced to death for the alleged murder of an Egyptian man in April 2007, an interior ministry of Saudua Arabia statement said. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj
Seven men who were convicted of crimes they committed as juveniles were executed in Saudi Arabia by firing squad on Wednesday, a first for the middle eastern Islamic monarchy that traditionally executes capital punishments by issuing beheadings.
The men were charged with theft, looting, and armed robbery in 2006 and were convicted and sentenced to death by a Saudi court in 2009, Al Jazeera reports. Witnesses say the men were shot dead in the town square at the city of Abha, located in the southern region of Asir.
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The case and harsh sentencing has sparked outrage among officials within various international organizations who have asked Saudi authorities to call off the executions because the men were juveniles when charged and because of alleges of torture that led to their confessions.
"It is high time for the Saudis to stop executing child offenders and start observing their obligations under international human rights law," Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, told Al Jazeera.
One of the executed men told the Associated Press he was 15-years-old when he was arrested and complained of being brutally tortured by authorities seeking a confession. He said he never met his attorney and only spoke with the judge on three occasions but was ignored when he showed torture marks on his body.
"This is not the only in breach of Saudi Arabia's international obligations under international law, which imposes an outright prohibition on torture, it is also in breach of the government's international obligation under the Convention against Torture that explicitly forbids the use of all forms of torture for the purpose of extracting confessions or acquiring information," Juan E. Mendez, U.N. special rapporteur on torture, told CNN.
A statement about the matter was issued by the Saudi Press Agency on behalf of the Ministry of the Interior and referred to Sharia law as it should be administered according to the Islamic holy book, the Quran.
"The punishment of those who wage war against God and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter," the statement said.
Twenty-three people, including the seven men on Wednesday, were executed in Saudi Arabia this year. In 2012, 76 people were executed, according to Al Jazeera.