“The Iranian judiciary should immediately halt all executions of juvenile offenders and Iran’s parliament should move swiftly to ban such executions”, a group of 9 human rights organizations said today. Stop Child Executions along with Amnesty International; Human Rights Watch; International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran; Iran Human Rights; Iranian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LDDHI); Penal Reform International; Human Rights Association and Vivere strongly condemned Iran’s continuing execution of juvenile offenders in a joint press release.
“Iran is executing several children every year, despite the fact that it is banned under international law,” the organizations said. “It is cruel and inhumane to apply the death penalty even to adults, let alone to those convicted for crimes committed before the age of 18.”
“The execution of juvenile offenders is subject to an absolute prohibition in international law. This is testimony
to the world’s repugnance towards this practice,” Drewery Dyke, a researcher with Amnesty International in London, told IPS. “It is high time that Iranian judicial officials and other leaders heed the concerns of the many jurists, lawyers and human rights activists in Iran who repeatedly call on the authorities to end the practice of executing juveniles and find a way to having Iran uphold its international legal commitments.”
This follows the executions by Iranian authorities on July 22 of Hassan Mozafari and Rahman Shahidi, both juvenile offenders, who were defined as persons under 18 at the time of their crime.
“Mozafari and Shahidi’s executions are extremely disturbing,” Clarisa Bencomo, Middle East and North Africa researcher in the Children’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch, told IPS. “The fact that the families of murder victims pardoned two other juvenile offenders just days before these latest executions only underlines how arbitrary the Iranian justice system is,” she added. “Iranian authorities should stop making excuses and change their laws to ensure that no one is ever executed for a crime committed when under 18.” hman
“We’ve seen far too many cases marked by serious violations of Iranian and international law that have ended in the juvenile offender’s execution,” said Bencomo. “There is no justice in a system where lower court judges can repeatedly violate procedure without being properly disciplined and appeals courts rubber stamp bad rulings,” she added.
Iranian authorities executed Mozafari and Shahidi along with an adult offender, Hussein Rahnama, in the southern city of Bushehr. Bushehr Criminal Court had convicted them of rape, together with another juvenile offender, Mohammad Pezhman, and two other adults Behrouz Zangeneh and Ali Khorramnejad. Iranian authorities executed Pezhman in May 2007 and the two other adults in October 2007.
Iran leads the world in executing persons for crimes committed under the age of 18. As a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Iran is obligated to abolish such executions.
However, in 2007, Iran carried out at least eight such executions. The recent executions of Mozafari and Shahidi bring the number of juvenile executions to four so far in 2008. No other country is known to have executed a juvenile offender in 2008.
The situation of juvenile offenders facing execution in Iran has reached crisis levels, making Iran’s violation of international standards much greater than any other country. There are at least 132 juvenile offenders known to be on death row in Iran, although the true number could be much higher.
“Iran is not only in direct violation of international human rights laws, it is also in violation of its own domestic laws with the hangings of individuals below the age of 18. This includes execution of juveniles such as 16 year old Mohammad Hassanzadeh last month for an alleged crime committed at age 15. Iran’s law requires the parents to be informed 48 hours prior to the execution but Mohammad’s family were not even informed. The Iranian Judiciary must be held accountable for these crimes against humanity.” said Nazanin Afshin-Jam, the president of the Stop Child Executions.
Following intense international protests, two juvenile offenders facing execution for murder, Saeed Jazee and Reza Sheshblooki, were spared the death penalty last week after receiving pardons from the families of their victims. Saeed Jazee was reported to have been released on Tuesday by his attorney. International and internal objections to the execution of another juvenile, Ali Mahin-Torabi also lead to quashing of his death sentence last week by Iran‘s head of Judiciary Ayatollah Shahrudi pending new trial.
“It is outrageous that even the names of all of the executed men have not been made public, let alone their crimes and the evidence against them,” Hadi Ghaemi, coordinator of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, told IPS in a telephone interview.
Earlier this month, 24 major international and regional organizations called on the Iranian authorities immediately to stop juvenile executions. In December 2007, the UN General Assembly expressed concern about the “execution of persons who were under the age of 18 at the time their offence was committed contrary to the obligations of the Islamic Republic of Iran under article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
“Iran’s insistence on executing juvenile offenders in the face of international law and international protests portrays an image of a judicial system bent on the application of state violence against juvenile offenders, but unconcerned about justice or international law,” the organizations said.
On July 27, the Iranian authorities hanged 29 adults inside Evin prison in Tehran. The authorities said the executed men had been convicted of drug smuggling and murder, but provided names for only 10 of them, and did not release the evidence against them or details of their prosecution. The United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 62/149 on December 18, 2007, in which it called on states to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty, but Iran continues to fly in the face of this global trend toward abolition. Iran has executed 191 people already in 2008, making it likely to maintain its position as carrying out more executions than any country in the world but China, although its population is 18 times smaller than China’s.
“With its practice of executing juvenile offenders, Iran has the unenviable reputation of being the world’s last executioner of children,” said Drewery Dyke of Amnesty International. “We find that this is not what Iranians want and in no way builds a stronger human rights culture for tomorrow’s Iran.”
“Sending almost 30 people to their death by hanging in a single day invokes a grotesque image of Iranian judges,” the 9 organizations said. “It is abhorrent that there is no information about those executed and it raises serious concerns about due process and the rule of law.”