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Saudi Arabia says Hajj pilgrimage is on — with limited numbers – CNN

(CNN)Saudi Arabia will strictly limit the number of people who can take part in this year’s Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca because of the coronavirus, according to state-run media.

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said the annual pilgrimage would be restricted to a very limited numbers of pilgrims of all nationalities who are already residing in the country, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
A statement from the ministry said that as Covid-19 cases continue to grow globally, and because of the risks of coronavirus spreading in crowded spaces and from other countries, the Hajj will “take place this year with a limited number of pilgrims from all nationalities residing in Saudi Arabia only, who are willing to perform Hajj.”
“This decision is taken to ensure Hajj is safely performed while committing to all preventive measures to protect Muslims and adhere strictly to the teachings of Islam in preserving our health and safety,” according to the statement.
The ministry statement cited the Saudi Ministry of Health as saying that the risks from coronavirus “are expected to grow further, but there is no vaccine available yet for those infected by the disease. Global health security needs to be preserved.”
The ministry said it would be challenging to maintain a proper distance in crowded areas and prevent the spread of the virus.
Based on these concerns, the Hajj Ministry statement said, “the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, whose top priority is to always provide care to enable Muslims to perform Hajj or Umrah rites safely and securely, has taken severe precautionary measures to protect pilgrims since the beginning of COVID-19.”
Saudi Arabia has recorded more than 160,000 cases and 1,307 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
More than two million Muslims performed Hajj last year, and of those, more than 1.8 million pilgrims traveled to Saudi Arabia from abroad to take part.
In April, Saudi Arabia advised Muslims planning on attending the pilgrimage to put their plans on hold. Indonesia, which had planned to send 221,000 pilgrims to Mecca this year, announced June 2 it would not be sending anyone because of virus concerns.
Performing the Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and it is one of the biggest religious gatherings in the world. Hajj occurs two months and 10 days after Ramadan ends, during the Islamic month of Dhul-Hijjah.
The Hajj is scheduled this year to start at the end of July.
The height of Hajj corresponds with the major Islamic holy day Eid al-Adha, which commemorates Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice his son on Divine orders.

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Saudi Arabia: Executions scrapped for crimes committed as minors – Al Jazeera English

Capital punishment for crimes committed under the age of 18 runs contrary to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child [File: EPA]

Capital punishment for crimes committed under the age of 18 runs contrary to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child [File: EPA]

Saudi Arabia will no longer impose the death sentence on individuals who committed crimes while still minors, the state-backed Human Rights Commission (HRC) has said in a statement citing a royal decree by King Salman.

Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s biggest executioners after Iran and China, Amnesty International said in its latest annual report earlier this month.

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“The decree means that any individuals who received a death sentence for crimes committed while he or she is a minor can no longer face execution. Instead, the individual will receive a prison sentence of no longer than 10 years in a juvenile detention facility,” HRC President Awwad Alawwad said in the statement on Sunday.

“This is an important day for Saudi Arabia,” Alawwad said. “The decree helps us in establishing a more modern penal code, and demonstrates the kingdom’s commitment to following through on key reforms across all sectors of our country.”

It was not immediately clear when the decree would take effect.

In its report, Amnesty said Saudi Arabia executed 184 people in 2019, including at least one person charged with a crime committed as a minor.

Sunday’s announcement came just two days after the kingdom, in effect, abolished flogging as punishment, in a decision made by the General Commission for the Supreme Court.

The punishment will instead be replaced by prison time or fines.

Capital punishment for crimes committed by people under the age of 18 runs contrary to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Saudi Arabia has ratified.

In April 2019, the kingdom beheaded 37 men convicted of “terrorism” charges. The UN human rights chief said at the time that most of them were Shia Muslims who may not have had fair trials and at least three were minors when sentenced.

Criticism of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record has grown since King Salman named his son Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) as crown prince and heir to the throne in June 2017.

MBS has launched a series of social and economic reforms aimed at modernising the conservative kingdom, which has no codified system of law to go with the texts making up Islamic law.

SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies

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