Dozens of juvenile offenders in Iran face death penalty
Published 27/01/2016 | 02:30
Dozens of people who were arrested in Iran for crimes committed before they turned 18 remain at risk of the death penalty despite recent reforms, with many having already spent years on death row, according to a report by Amnesty International released yesterday.
The London-based group also found that Iran has executed at least 73 juvenile offenders between 2005 and 2015, including four last year.
Amnesty's 110-page report intensifies pressure on Iran at a time when Tehran is working to rebuild relations with the West following last year's landmark nuclear deal.
Iran is one of the world's largest users of the death penalty, ranking second behind China in 2014, according to the most recent figures from Amnesty.
Most executions overall in Iran are carried out for drug smuggling. The country straddles a major narcotics trafficking route linking opium-producing fields in Afghanistan to Europe.
Amnesty's researchers were able to identify the names and locations of 49 juvenile offenders who face the death penalty, though the group notes that actual numbers could be higher.
A 2014 UN report put the number of juvenile offenders at risk of execution at more than 160.
The majority of the 73 juvenile offenders Amnesty identified who were put to death over the past decade were convicted of murder. Others were executed for crimes including rape, drug-related crimes and national security offenses such as "enmity against God".
The group noted that reforms introduced in 2013 give judges more discretion to take into account juvenile offenders' mental maturity and potentially impose less harsh punishments, and that the Supreme Court has since said juvenile offenders facing execution could have their cases retried.
Additional reforms introduced last year require that cases involving juveniles must be heard in special juvenile courts.
Still, Amnesty says more must be done. "Despite some juvenile justice reforms, Iran continues to lag behind the rest of the world, maintaining laws that permit girls as young as nine and boys as young as 15 to be sentenced to death," Amnesty said.
Iranian officials could not be reached for comment.
In late October, the United Nations' special investigator on the human rights situation in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, said executions in Iran had risen at an "exponential rate" since 2005 and could exceed 1,000 in 2015.
He said Iran put more people to death per capita than any other country, adding that the majority of executions did not conform to international laws banning the death penalty for juveniles and non-violent offenders.
The head of Iran's Human Rights Council, Mohammad Javad Larijani, subsequently dismissed the UN report as "a collection of baseless accusations".
Meanwhile the grandson of the founder of Iran's Islamic Republic has been barred from running for a top clerical body, his family said yesterday, as the country prepares for crucial elections next month.
The decision to bar Hassan Khomeini, who has close ties to reformists, likely serves as pushback against anyone proposing changes to Iran's clerical government after the nuclear deal with world powers negotiated by the administration of moderate President Hassan Rouhani.
Khomeini had planned to stand in the Assembly of Experts election, which will be held the same day as the Iran's parliamentary election in which moderates hope to make gains. The 86-member cleric body is elected by the public to eight-year terms.