In the Name of God
His Excellency Ayatollah Shahroodi, Head of judiciary,
As you are informed, it has been 4 years since the bill of the investigation of the criminal acts by minors is being reviewed by the experts of the judicial and legal committee of the Islamic parliament, and due to the recent pressure of the local and foreign assemblies, it has taken priority in the committee’s agenda.
The execution of children under the age of 18 has been especially emphasized upon and disturbed the Human Rights activists.
There are children who are now awaiting the announcement of the verdict of their trials and the calling of their names and their sentencing, amongst them are my clients: 1- Saeed Jozee 17, 2- REza Padashi 16, 3- Hossein Toranj 16, 4-Safar Angooti 17, 5- Hossein Haghi 16, 6- Ali Shanbehzadeh 17 (all in Rejayi prison in the sity of Karaj) 7-Reza Ali Nejad 17, 8-Mohamad Jahedi 16, 9-Behnam Zareh 15 (Adel Abad prison in Shiraz) 10-Delara Darabi 17, 11- Mahyar Haghgoo 17 (in Rasht prison) and 12 Mohamad Lateef 15 (in prison in city of Saveh).
Of the above mentioned, Behnam Zare, 15 years old has been convicted of a capital crime and could be hanged any moment and be killed.
It has been heard that in the (parliamentary) bill of the investigation of the criminal acts committed by minors, the hanging execution of the children under the age of 18 has been eliminated, If that is accurate, and if the bill passes by the Islamic parliament, our beloved country will take an enormous leap in the protection of human rights.
Article 6 paragraph 5 of the (UN) convention clearly states: “There shall be no death sentences given to children under the age of 18”. For centuries, experts including psychologists, criminologists and socialogists have investigated the mental growth and maturity of the children and a number of other elements that demonstrate the fact that most crimes committed by the children under the age of 18 have an accidental unintentional and unmeditated nature, and due to the childish mentality, none had the intention of killing and have no previous criminal records and did not collaborate with anyone else.
The Article 9 of the civil law in regards to the international covenants, indicates that ” the convenant rules and restrictions set under the constitutional laws between Iran and foreign governments apply as the law of the land” .
According to the 77th amemdment of the constitution, the courts are bound to apply with the international agreements and contracts that have passed by the congress. The agreement mentioned above was passed by the congress in the year 1354 (A.D.1975) and no law in contrary to this international agreement has passed since.
The laws in accordance to the international treaties take precedence over civil laws, but the judges presiding over these trials have disregarded this fact. The judges who rule the execution verdict of the children under the age of 18, refer to the punitive Islamic laws (49) and civil law (1210) clearly stating the “religious maturity” of the defendents to be diffrent from their “legal age”, although there are discrepencies in the definition of religious maturity between the juris consults, and there is no distinct definition.
Besides the difference of opinion about the actual age of religious maturity, there are circumstances that would allow flexibility in the punishment. Some of the Islamic Authorities have considered a reduced sentence for the children under the age of 18. Ayatollah Nouri of Hamedan has answered the question of reducing the sentence, as follows: ” with regards to accuracy and interest of policy, it can be done”. Ayatollah Behjat says: “under these circumstances, when the crime is not proven completely, can be persuaded to forgiveness”. Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi expressed: ” for the sentencing of the underage adolescents, the maturity level has to be considered, in the case of any suspicion and if such sentencing would deface Islam throughout the world, per the judge’s discretion, there can be reductions in the severity of the sentence. Even after the sentence is given, in case of adolescents, the judges can mediate and find a way to reduce the sentence by convincing the prosecution (and the victim’s family) to accept monetary means in lieu of the sentence.
At this time, it’s been proven that the minimum age for the punishments such as execution and life imprisonment is 18 and people under the age of 18 are considered children.
In our country when a boy reaches the age of 15 and the girl 9 (lunar years and not solar years – therefore it converts to younger age) and if they commit murder, they do get executed. Mohammad Lateef commited murder at the age of 14 yrs and 11 months, all the medical examiners agreed that at the time the crime was commited, Mohammad was not at a mature age and lacked sufficient mental growth. Unfortunately, the court prosecuted him for a Capital crime and he is awaiting sentencing.
Mr head of judiciary , I proclaim that my clients and others under the age of 18 who have commited these crimes, have done so unintentionally and they do not deserve to be executed and put to death. They were still growing children at the time and now that they have grown up and opened their eyes to the society, they find themselves in prison and await their hanging. They waste their days and nights anticipating their execution and some of them have not even commited murder, but due to their childish mentality accepted the responsibility of such crime and some have denied the allegations later with proof. Some have commited the crime as a self-defense when their cries for justice did not reach anyone.
One day I went to meet with two of my clients to Shiraz Adel Abad prison. After the due process, it took me 3 hours to meet with them. They were pale and shivering because they thought they were being called to be hanged, they were eluding leaving their cell.
Mr Head of Judiciary, I know that during your term in the office you have sent a lot of the judgements back to be reviewed and you have tried to prevent the execution of innocents. One of those cases was Shahla Jahed which his excellemcy sent the file back back to be reviewed by the supreme court, and in the case of Kobra Rahmanpour, you preferred and seeked a peaceful agreement between them. Also your attention and sensibility in regards to the sentences of stoning is known to all, although some of the judges without any regards to the pobations against stoning sentenced a hopeless man in one of the villages of Takestan, which portrayed our beloved country as a violent one in the eyes of the world.
Mr. Shahroodi, capital punishment requires your approval, therefore on behalf of other attorneys and the many children who are facing execution, I ask you to delay such sentencing and prevent the execution of the children under the age of 18 until the final results of the parliamentary bill regarding the children penal laws. it is evident that stopping such executions is not harmful to the legal branch nor the society, but if the executions take place and then the law is passed to eliminate capital punichment for the minors, it would be against justice. It will not be beneficial for the society, but also those children who unwillingly or unknowingly commited the crimes would lose their lives unjustly. In such cases even if their innocence is proven, there’ll be no redemption.
translated by MG