Riyadh: Saudi Arabia's Shura Council has approved a landmark decision with regard to execution of the death sentence.
The council passed a legislation to make amendment in the Criminal Procedure Law by which death sentence shall be carried out with a unanimous decision instead of the existing majority vote.
An overwhelming majority of 92 members voted in favour of the new amendment, while a few members opposed it. The Shura members, who voted against the amendment included Dr Zuhair Al Harithy and Dr Abdul Rahman Al Eisa.
According to the amendment, death sentence shall be executed only with a unanimous decision of the judges. At present, death sentence can be awarded with a decision of the majority of judges.
The amendment says that any verdict issued by a lower court awarding death sentence or severing of hands or similar punishments shall not be executed without a verdict of the Supreme Court, upholding it.
The court decision shall be with a unanimous decision. The Shura Council will conclude voting on the remaining clauses of the draft judicial laws after listening to the viewpoints of the subcommittees for Islamic, judicial and human rights.
Airing his objection to the Shura Council's vote for amendment, Dr Zuhair Al Harithy said that a unanimous decision in awarding punishment comes in the purview of the Shariah option of Ijtihad (Islamic jurisprudence).
In comments to Al Riyadh Arabic daily, he said that this type of intervention by the Shura in the activities of judiciary makes no sense and it is also incomprehensible.
"If there is no unanimity in issuing verdict, it shows that there is some doubt in the verdict and this prevents court from awarding punishment to the culprits," he said while warning that this could lead to murderers going unpunished.
In Saudi Arabia, the usual form of death sentence is beheading.