Stop Child Executions welcomes the news reported today in AFP regarding steps to improve punishment for child offenders and hopes the Iranian Majiles and the Council of Guardians quickly pass the made proposals.
It was only a few months ago, when Iran’s representative at the UN General Assembly announced an end to child executions, only to retract the statement days later clarifying that it appied only to drug traffickers. Stop Child Executions, therefore, remains cautious at the recent news and hopes that this time the Islamic Republic of Iran keep to their word.
Iran seeks to limit execution of minors
TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran’s judiciary said on Tuesday it has drawn up a bill which aims to ease punishments for minor offenders and make it harder for the courts to sentence children to death for murder.
Minors who have committed murder will not be hanged “if they do not understand the nature of the crime they have committed or there is a doubt about their maturity and insight,” judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi told reporters.
The new bill, whose outlines have been approved by parliament’s judicial commission, appears to be an improvement on Iran’s existing penal code, where the age of legal responsibility is nine for a girl and 15 for a boy.
Human rights advocates have for years urged Iran to heed its commitment to international conventions on child rights and stop executing offenders for crimes they committed under the age of 18.
Seventeen people have been executed in the past two years for crimes committed when under 18, according to rights groups.
Several crimes including murder, drug trafficking and rape, are punishable by death under the Sharia-based law practised in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Jamshidi said minor offenders have been divided into three categories under the proposed bill.
“People between 15 and 18 will receive a maximum punishment of two to five years in a juvenile corrective facility for crimes which adults are sentenced to life imprisonment or even execution,” Jamshidi said.
He said the courts would be required to seek opinions from experts on the maturity of someone under the age of 18 who is convicted of murder.
Children between the ages of seven and 12 will “receive no punishment”, Jamshidi said, adding that the bill would not differentiate between girls and boys.
He said such offenders would be “sent to an educational boarding facility, receive medical and psychological treatment or be separated from family and put into foster care.”
“Those between 12 and 15 will be sent to a juvenile corrective facility for three months to a year for serious crimes that land adults in jail,” Jamshidi said. “They may also receive one of the measures for seven to 12 group.”
Iran said in October that minors convicted of drug trafficking could face a maximum term of life imprisonment rather than death.
But it has so far insisted that retribution in murder is a private right and that is up to the victims’ families to determine whether the death sentence should be carried out.
However the new bill is still a long way from being written into law, as it has to be debated by the MPs and vetted by the Guardians Council — a conservative watchdog body which has binned much legislation over the past years after finding it contradictory to Islam or the constitution.
Rights activist and lawyer Nasrin Sotoodeh, who has defended several minor murderers, welcomed the proposed amendments as a “small step” in respecting child rights.
“It is yet to be seen whether it will finally be adopted, but we welcome the separation of age groups and restricting the judges in murder cases,” she told AFP.
“We hope that one day they will order a full ban on execution of minors.”