Saudi reviews death sentences of three convicted as minors
Ali al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon and Abdullah al-Zaher, activists from the minority Shiite community, were arrested as minors in 2012 on terrorism-related charges after they took part in anti-government protests during the Arab Spring uprisings.
The public prosecutor ordered a review of the three cases this week, the HRC said in a statement.
"These referrals mark important progress in faithfully implementing an important reform in the legal system, and in advancing human rights in Saudi Arabia," HRC president Awwad Alawwad said in the statement.
"They demonstrate the critical importance of these reforms not just in changes to the legal code, but in actions."
Campaigners said the families of the three detainees were not officially notified about the review and found out through the media.
"The announcement to review the death sentences against these three young men is a significant and long overdue step towards justice," said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa research and advocacy director at Amnesty International.
"We call on the Saudi Arabian authorities to ensure that any retrial that follows is conducted in a fair, transparent and open manner... The authorities must also ensure that the 'confessions' extracted from them through torture are not used in proceedings."
The kingdom has one of the world's highest rate of executions.
Campaign group Reprieve also welcomed Thursday's announcement.
"If the Saudi authorities are true to their word, and the death sentences of all people convicted of childhood crimes are to be reviewed, then this is a hugely positive development," said Reprieve's director Maya Foa, calling for the sentences to be commuted.
"Ali, Dawood and Abdullah were imprisoned as boys, and have spent almost a decade of their youth in fear of execution."
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is aiming to blunt international criticism over the kingdom's rights record and its opaque judicial system, especially since the October 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
In April, the HRC also announced Saudi Arabia was abolishing court-ordered floggings, in a move welcomed by campaigners.