By: Asieh Amini, human rights activist in Iran
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.