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Juvenile Executions in past 18 years

By: Asieh Amini, human rights activist in Iran  2008.12.07
Source:  http://www.roozonline.com/english/

In the past year it has been heard time and again, through human rights news or ‎statements issued by human rights activists, the embarrassing news that Iran is leading ‎the world in the number of juvenile executions. Today’s piece aims at reviewing these ‎executions and providing a general analysis on the implementation of this punishment in ‎Iran since 1990. It must be noted that figures cited in this piece are based either on ‎information published and approved by official sources or my personal research, ‎confirmed by the execution of the sentences. ‎

Since 1990 at least 41 juveniles have been executed in our country. Out of these, the ‎names of 37 are provided in figures released by the Human Rights Watch. However, the ‎names of Masoud Naghi Biravand and Mohammad Faghiri, who were hanged in Lorestan ‎in 1385 and Isfahan in 1386, respectively, are not mentioned.‎
In addition, the Afghanistan Independent Committee reported the execution of two ‎Afghan juveniles in Iran in fall of 1997, but the name of neither individual is available in ‎any official report. ‎
One of these 41 individuals was a woman and the rest were men. Of this total, 9 were ‎under the age of 18 at the time of execution, and 32 were executed after turning 18. In ‎this respect, until the year 2000, juvenile convicts were executed regardless of their age ‎after their conviction. For example, between 1990 and 2000, six individuals under the ‎age of 18 were hanged. After 2000, however, the judicial process changed and most ‎juveniles remained behind bars until they reached the age of 18, when their death ‎sentences were be carried out. Nevertheless, in the past 8 years, meaning from 2000 until ‎November 2008, at least five juveniles by the names of Atefeh Sahaleh, Majid ‎Saghouvand, Saeed Ghanbarzehi, Mohammad Hasanzadeh, and one other juvenile whose ‎name was not stated in newspapers were hanged before reaching the age of 18. ‎
Analyzing the data per year, in 1990 one person, and in 1992 three juveniles were ‎hanged. Between 1992 and 1998 the names of no juveniles are mentioned in the lists, ‎while in 1999, 2000 and 2001 one juvenile per each year were among those executed. ‎
The years 2002 and 2003 also were among the clean years in terms of juvenile execution ‎but in 2004 three people, in 2005 eight people, in 2006 five people, in 2007 eleven people ‎and in 2008, so far six people who have committed crimes as juveniles have been ‎executed. ‎
As a result, if we divide this 18-year period into three six-year period, in the first period ‎four people, in the second period three people, and in the third period 34 people have ‎been executed. These figures show that there is no considerable difference between the ‎first two period, meaning the years between 1369 and 1380. However, since 2001, we ‎are suddenly faced with a close to 11-fold increase in frequency of juvenile executions. ‎
However, one must note that this does not necessarily mean that the number of ‎executions have increased 11-fold. Part of the increase is due to better “documentation” ‎of execution cases in recent years. In effect, because of the sensitivity of human rights ‎activists and the documentation of individual cases, unlike the past cases of execution are ‎no longer hidden from media scrutiny. ‎
However, it must be noted that data related to executions is still not fully accurate. For ‎example, various figures have been released about the number of convicts on the death ‎row in Iranian prisons (from any age). The figure has varied from 70 to 150 individuals. ‎More importantly, however, is that none of these figures are clear and accurate and until ‎the doors of information are close to researchers, journalists and lawyers, we can neither ‎provide an accurate analysi s of crime conditions and punishment process nor be aware of ‎the number of individuals in order to help and defend them. For example, Amr ‎Houshang Fazlollahzadeh was executed in Tonekabon last spring and Mohammad ‎Hasanzadeh was hanged last spring at the age of 17 in Sanandaj. The names of neither of ‎these two individuals were listed on reports published by human rights organizations and ‎no journalist or activist was even aware of their convictions until after their execution. ‎
It also is necessary to note that we must call on all social and civil society activists, ‎journalists and lawyers working in Tehran and other cities to contribute to ‎documentation, reporting and publication of the plight of juvenile convicts. ‎
Perhaps then we can be hopeful about pulling down the shameful place afforded to us on ‎the podium as the world’s leading nation in juvenile executions.

The Paradox of Executing Juveniles

Source: Asieh Amini – 2008.10.26  published in Roozonline

‎Last week, two comments from the same senior judiciary official in Iran over the ‎executions of juveniles prompted a new controversy in the country’s media. Initially, the ‎deputy prosecutor for judiciary affairs of Iran said no death sentences would be passed ‎for individuals under the age of 18. Three days later,
he said what he had meant was not ‎that the implementation of Ghesas (punishment in kind), the punishment of death for ‎those who had committed a murder as requested by the victim’s family, for individuals ‎under 18 should be stopped. ‎

This difference in view is because of the two different interpretations that exist for the  ‎concept of Ghesas among experts and among laymen. In Islam, Ghesas is not defined as a ‎‎“public right” which is why the relatives of a murder victim have the right to request  that ‎the death penalty be implemented or not implemented for the perpetrator of the murder. ‎The death penalty, on the other hand, is a public right, and not a part of private rights.‎
This distinction had also been made early by Dr Alireza Jamshidi, the spokesperson of ‎the judiciary. He had said that there was a difference between the death penalty and ‎Ghesas and said that individuals who were under 18 years of age were not given  the death ‎penalty, and that only murderers received the Ghesas punishment. But this  statement does ‎not reflect the reality either. Since 2004 there have been at least three  cases in which the ‎death penalty was executed on cases that did not involve a murder.

The cases involved a ‎prostitution (as attested by the confessions of the person), a  homosexual sex (as confessed ‎by witnesses), and, smuggling of drugs, which was  basically ignored by the media. But ‎more importantly, during the last four years (i.e. exactly a year since the first order ‎banning the execution of individuals under 18 years old was issued by the head of Iran’s ‎judiciary) at least two cases of executing Ghesas have been recorded for individuals who ‎were under 18 years  of age (Atefeh who was 16 and Mohammad Hassanzadeh who was ‎‎17 years old). ‎

With these known cases, the question that is raised is that why is supervision over courts ‎by the judiciary so weak that a violation of the orders of the head of the judiciary and the ‎violations of the express laws in this regard are easily tolerated. Another question that is ‎relevant is that why despite the existence of sufficient evidence regarding  judicial ‎violations in the implementation of the death penalty for those less than 18 years old, ‎officials insist on denying the execution of such orders. But most importantly, why
 do ‎officials use religious and legal terms when talking with people, who are not familiar  ‎with these technical terms, thus creating confusion or undue expectations for the relatives ‎and family members of the juveniles. On the first issue, the deputy prosecutor had said ‎that defendants who were under 18 years old would not face the death penalty as the law ‎prescribed, regardless of the crime they had committed. These words had no ifs or buts.

 ‎And no specific crimes, committed by people under 18 years of age, such as murder or ‎other crimes with the death penalty as their reprimands, were identified or listed. So ‎despite these remarks, just three days after assurances were provided by the judiciary, the ‎very  same judiciary official announced that individuals who had been sentenced for ‎Ghesas,  would actually be executed because the decision to execute them or not rested ‎with the relatives of the victim. When something is said in front of the media which lacks ‎any conditions, the conclusion is that is reached is much larger.‎

The history of issuing circulars in line with human rights, has not been short. We have ‎repeatedly heard from judiciary authorities that the leaders if the judiciary are working to ‎improve laws or to improve the laws.‎ In fact one of the key duties of the Judiciary is to present bills to the government who in ‎turn sends them to executive branch of government after its review. If the law is not ‎modified, then the law may rest in contradiction with other laws. For example in criminal ‎cases where the law allows the judge to monitor the implementation of the sentence from ‎the time the sentence is passed, in fact the order to stay the implementation of a judgment ‎is in contradiction with the law and a judge in such a situation would be in violation of ‎one of the laws, regardless of which he chose to follow. So when there are laws in Iran ‎that allow the execution of a juvenile, prohibiting such executions through circulars or ‎judicial orders issued by the head of the judiciary in fact creates a paradox.