Friday, 29 June 2007

Iran: End child executions

Press Release

Iran: End child executions

"My daughter Delara is accused of a crime that she did not commit.
Help me and help us until justice is properly served. There are no
signs of humanity and justice in here."
father of Delara Darabi who is awaiting execution in Iran, 11
January 2007

Amnesty International is calling on Iran's judicial and political
authorities to order an immediate moratorium to prevent further
executions of child offenders and to amend the laws so no children
who commit crimes can be sentenced to death. In a new report, the
organization said at least 71 child offenders were awaiting
execution in Iran, where more child offenders have been executed
than in any other country since 1990.

"Iran stands virtually alone as a country in which child offenders -
persons under 18 at the time of the crime of which they were
convicted - are put to death," said Malcolm Smart, Director of the
Middle East and North Africa Programme. "It is high time that the
Iranian authorities put an end to this shameful practice - for once
and for all - and bring themselves in line with the rest of the
international community, which has long recognized the obscenity of
executing those who commit crimes while children."

In the report, Iran: The last executioner of children, Amnesty
International lists the names of the 71 child offenders known to be
facing the death penalty, but notes that the total number could be
much higher as many death penalty cases in Iran are believed to go
unreported. Of the 24 child offenders recorded as having been
executed since 1990, 11 were still under the age of 18 at the time
of their execution while the others were either kept on death row
until they had reached 18 or were convicted and sentenced after
reaching that age.
"The Iranian authorities deny that they execute children but so far
this year we have already recorded two executions of child
offenders," said Malcolm Smart. "Mohammad Mousavi, aged 19, was
executed in April for a crime committed when he was 16, and Sa'id
Qanbar Zahi, hanged on 27 May 2007 at Zahedan prison, was only 17
when he was sentenced to death with six other members of Iran's
Baluchi minority two months earlier."

The execution of Atefeh Rajabi Sahaaleh, sentenced for "crimes
against chastity" and hanged at the age of 16 on August 2004, is one
of seven cases highlighted by the report. A day after her execution,
a judiciary official told a newspaper that she was 22 years old.
Rajabi's case highlights the failure of the Iranian judicial system
to protect children and provides further evidence that some child
offenders are executed in Iran even before they reach the age of 18.
The report also lists the cases of 17 other people who were executed
for crimes committed when they were under 18.

Although executions of child offenders are few compared to the total
number of executions in Iran, they highlight the government's
disregard for its commitments and obligations under international
law, which prohibits in all circumstances the use of the death
penalty against child offenders. Apart from Iran, the only countries
in which executions of child offenders have been recorded since 2003
are China, Sudan and Pakistan; though the Chinese and Pakistani
authorities insisted that those executed were aged 18 or over at the
time of the crime. In each year the number of child offenders
executed in Iran exceeded the total number of all other executions
of child offenders.
Some members of the government and the judiciary are also believed
to favour at least reducing, if not abolishing, the death penalty
for child offenders, but progress is painfully slow. For example, a
draft law proposed by the judiciary in 2001 could pave the way for
the abolition of the death sentence for minors or at least result in
a reduction in the number of offences for which child offenders
could be sentenced to death, but the draft law is still under
consideration by the political and judicial authorities.

Amid the horror of child executions and the wider problem of the
death penalty in Iran, there are some positive signs, particularly,
the emergence of a growing movement in favour of the abolition of
the death penalty for child offenders. This is being led by a
courageous band of human rights defenders and activists within Iran,
and it has already achieved some notable successes.

"Amnesty International opposes the death penalty unreservedly for
anyone, regardless of their age and regardless of the nature of the
crime or the character of the condemned," said Malcolm Smart. "Every
execution is an affront to human dignity - a human rights violation
of premeditated cruelty that denies the right to life enshrined in
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

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