Source: Human Rights
Enforce International Prohibition on Death Penalty for
(Geneva, July 8, 2008) - Today 24 international
and regional human rights organizations called on Iranian authorities to spare
four youths facing execution and to stop imposing the death penalty for crimes
committed by juvenile offenders - persons who commit crimes while under the age
of 18 - and to uphold their international obligation to enforce the absolute
prohibition on the death penalty.
Iran executed 16-year-old Mohammad Hassanzadeh, an
Iranian Kurd on June 10, 2008 for a crime committed when he was 14. Four other
juvenile offenders are at risk of execution between July 11 and July 25. The
organizations called on the head of Iran's judiciary to suspend these four
Behnoud Shojaee and Mohammad Feda'i face execution on July 11. Both were to be
executed on June 11, 2008 but received last-minute, month-long reprieves to give
them more time to seek pardons from the families of their victims.
At least two other juvenile offenders, Salah Taseb and Sa'eed Jazee, are also at
risk of execution in the coming days. According to the group Human Rights
Activists in Iran, Salah Taseb, from Sanandaj, who was convicted of a murder
committed when he was 15, has been transferred from the children's prison to the
main prison in Sanandaj after recently turning 18. He may be executed before the
end of the Iranian month of Tir, which ends on July 23, 2008, although
spokesperson for the Judiciary Alireza Jamshidi stated on July 1 that the case
remained subject to appeal. The other youth, Sa'eed Jazee, who was due to be
executed on June25, reportedly had his execution postponed for a month. He was
convicted of the murder of a 22-year-old man, which took place in 2003 when he
was 17 years old. Almost 140 juvenile offenders are known to be on death row in
Iran, but the true figure could be even higher - for example, Mohammad
Hassanzadeh's case was not known to campaigners prior to his execution.
In a press conference on June 17, 2008, carried by various Iranian media,
Judiciary spokesperson Alireza Jamshidi denied that Mohammad Hassanzadeh had
been under the age of 18 at the time of his execution. In response, Mohammad
Mostafa'i, a lawyer who has defended many juvenile offenders sentenced to death,
wrote on June 25 that he
went to Sanandaj following Alireza Jamshidi's statement, where he saw Mohammad
Hassanzadeh's identity papers. Mohammad Mostafa'i wrote that the documents
proved that Mohammad Hassanzadeh was in fact only 16 years, 11 months and 20
days old at the time of his execution.
The use of the death penalty against those who committed their offenses while
under the age of 18 is a gross violation of customary international law, no
matter what age the person has reached at the time of their execution. The
organizations said they were concerned that the authorities' insistence that
Mohammad Hassanzadeh was over 18 at the time of his execution could be a prelude
to reprisals being taken against Iranian human rights defenders (HRDs) who have
publicly criticized this and other executions of juvenile offenders, as they
could potentially be accused of vaguely-worded charges such as "acting against
state security" or "propaganda against the system."
Iranian HRDs who have previously publicized human rights violations have
suffered such reprisals. For example, in 2007 a court convicted Emadeddin Baghi,
a leading Iranian campaigner against the death penalty, of "activities against
national security" and "propaganda in favour of the regime's opponents" for
statements criticizing death sentences imposed after unfair trials in cases
involving adults. That ruling was overturned on appeal, but Emadeddin Baghi
continues to serve another sentence connected to his human rights work. Mohammad
Sadiq Kabudvand, an Iranian Kurdish HRD is serving an 11-year prison sentence He
was convicted of "acting against state security by establishing the Human Rights
Organization of Kurdistan (HROK)" and "propaganda against the system."
The Iranian authorities should respect the right to freedom of expression,
including in the defense of human rights, as articulated in the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the UN Declaration on the
Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote
and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
Some Iranian officials have attempted to justify killing juvenile offenders by
terming these killings "retribution" and not "execution." According to Judiciary
spokesperson Alireza Jamshidi: "In [Iranian] law we don't have execution ('edam)
for persons under 18 years of age; what we have in the laws for persons between
15 to 18 is the issue of retribution (qesas)." In Islamic law, "retribution" for
murder is the death penalty. Family members of a murder victim may pardon or
accept compensation in lieu of execution, but they are not required to do so.
Iranian law currently allows the death penalty - for "retribution" for murder
and for other crimes - to be imposed on girls as young as 9, and boys from the
age of 15, lunar years. A child younger than this could also be sentenced to
death if the judge in the case considers that he or she has reached puberty.
This distinction between "execution" and "retribution" is a meaningless one. A
person is executed when his or her death is brought about by the state pursuant
to a final judgment issued by a competent court, which is the case in sentences
of "retribution" issued by Iranian courts. By making such misleading statements,
the Iranian authorities are attempting to obscure the fact that Iran is
violating international law every time it executes a juvenile offender - whether
or not the individual has reached 18 at the time of his or her execution. It is
imperative that the authorities immediately stop such executions and amend
legislation to ensure that no one is put to death by the state for any crime,
including murder, committed when under the age of 18.
Iran is a state party to both the International Convention on Civil and
Political Rights (without reservation) and the Convention on the Rights of the
Child (CRC), both of which prohibit the execution of persons under the age of 18
at the time of their offense. In ratifying the CRC, Iran declared an extremely
broad reservation, "not to apply any provisions or articles of the Convention
that are incompatible with Islamic Laws." The Committee on the Rights of the
Child, which monitors implementation of the CRC, expressed its concern in 2000
that the "broad and imprecise nature of the State party's [Iran's] general
reservation potentially negates many of the Convention's provision and raises
concern as to its compatibility with the object and purpose of the Convention."
The 24 human rights groups called on Iran to withdraw its reservation to the CRC,
which, the groups said, cannot in any case be invoked as legal authority to
allow for the execution of juvenile offenders.
In 2007, only two other countries - Saudi Arabia and Yemen - also executed
juvenile offenders, but the numbers are dwarfed by those carried out in Iran,
where at least seven were executed that year. So far in 2008, two juvenile
offenders, including Mohammad Hassanzadeh, who was only 16 at the time of his
execution, have been hanged in Iran.
Iran should immediately commute all death sentences against juvenile offenders
and cease all such executions, the 24 groups said.
The 24 international and regional human rights organizations calling on Iran
Association Adala; Amnesty International; The Arabic Network for Human Rights
Information; Arab Penal Reform Organization (APRO); Bahrein Center for Human
Rights (BCHR); Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS); Defence for
Children International; Egyptian Alliance to Challenge Death Penalty;
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH); Human Rights Association for
the Assistance of Prisoners; Human Rights Association of Turkey (IHD); Human
Rights Watch; Institut International des Droits de l'Enfant; International
Campaign for Human Rights in Iran; Organisation Marocaine des droits de l'Homme
(OMDH); Iran Human Rights; Iranian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LDDHI);
Moroccan Centre for Human Rights (Centre Marocain des Droits Humains); Moroccan
Coalition against the Death Penalty (Association Marocaine des Droits Humains,
Amnesty International Section Marocaine, Organisation Marocaine des Droits
Humains, Centre des Droits des Gens, Obsevatoire Marocains des Prisons,
Association des Barreaux du Maroc, Forum Marocain de Verite et Justice); Penal
Reform International; Stop Child Executions; VIVERE; and World Organisation
Against Torture (OMCT).
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