Iran: Update on Executions

Since last week, IGLHRC has learned more facts about the public executions which took place in Mashad, Iran on July 19, 2005. The most accurate information we now have has come from our colleagues at Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

The two young men publicly hanged in Iran were convicted of sexually assaulting a thirteen-year-old boy. They were in held detention for 14 months prior to the execution, where they were also subjected to 228 lashes each. For more information and current updates on the facts of the case, please see Amnesty International’s Public Statement below and the Human Rights Watch website at: Human Rights Watch News

Despite reports circulated by numerous groups throughout the past several days, and the recent condemnation by some governments, including the Netherlands, of the executions of “two gay teenagers”, there is no conclusive information which suggests that the two young men were put to death based on consensual homosexual sex.

However, the fact of the public executions of the men, at least one of whom is reported to have been a minor at the time of the crime, is a violation of human rights law. Iran, a state party to both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is obligated to refrain from the execution of any person under the age of 18 for any crime. Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi has also publicly called for Iran to implement laws that clearly ban the execution of minors.

IGLHRC will continue to monitor this situation. IGLHRC also calls on the government of Iran to uphold its obligations under international law to refrain from any future imposition of the death penalty as punishment for crimes committed by juveniles. Human Rights Watch has prepared a letter to the President of Iran which is below.

Background Information:

Amnesty International Public Statement:

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
Public Statement

AI Index: MDE 13/038/2005(Public)
News Service No: 199
22 July 2005

Iran continues to execute minors and juvenile offenders

In the wake of the execution of three persons for crimes committed when they were children (under 18), including one who is still a child, in less than a week, Amnesty International today urges the Iranian government to put a final stop to these executions.
On 19 July 2005, an 18-year-old, identified only as A. M. and a minor, Mahmoud A, were publicly hanged in the north-eastern city of Mashhad. According to reports, they were convicted of sexual assault on a 13-year-old boy and had been detained 14 months ago. Prior to their execution, the two were also given 228 lashes each for drinking, disturbing the peace and theft.

Prior to this, on 13 July 2005, Ali Safarpour Rajabi, aged 20, was hanged for killing Hamid Enshadi, a police officer in Poldokhtar. Amnesty International recorded his death sentence as having been passed in February 2002, when he was 17 years old, and believes his crime may have been committed when he was only 16 years old.

As a state party to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Iran has undertaken not to execute anyone for an offence committed when they were under the age of 18.

For the past four years, the Iranian authorities have been considering legislation that would prohibit the use of the death penalty for offences committed by persons under the age of 18. Under Article 1210(1) of Iran’s Civil Code, the ages of 15 lunar years for boys and nine lunar years for girls are set out as the age of criminal responsibility.

In January 2005, following its consideration of Iran's second periodic report on its implementation of the provisions of the CRC, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (the Committee), the body of independent experts established under this Convention to monitor states parties' compliance with the treaty, urged Iran:

to take the necessary steps to immediately suspend the execution of all death penalties imposed on persons for having committed a crime before the age of 18, to take the appropriate legal measures to convert them to penalties in conformity with the provisions of the Convention and to abolish the death penalty as a sentence imposed on persons for having committed crimes before the age of 18, as required by article 37 of the Convention.

And, inter alia:

to suspend immediately the imposition and execution of all forms of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, such as amputation, flogging or stoning, for crimes committed by persons under 18.

(paragraphs 30 and 72.b of the Committee's Concluding Observations, UN Doc. CRC/C/15/Add.254.)

So far this year, Iran has executed at least four persons for crimes commited when they were children including one who is still a child. Amnesty International has recorded 42 executions so far in 2005, but the true number could well be higher.

It is now imperative for Iran to stop sentencing children to death, to end the executions of children, and to halt all forms of violence against children.

Human Rights Watch: Letter to the President of Iran and the Head of the Judiciary

July 27, 2005

His Excellency Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi Shahroodi
Justice Ministry Bldg.
Pazdah-Khordad (Ark) Sq.
Tehran, Iran

By fax: 98 21 222 90 151

Your Excellency:

We write to express our grave concern over the July 19 public hanging in Mashhad of two people for crimes they were found to have committed while at least one of them was under the age of eighteen. The continued practice of executing juvenile offenders—as well as the imposition of sentences of flogging, which constitutes torture—places Iran in violation of its international legal obligations. We urge you to bring an end to these practices and to support legislation barring the execution of sentences of death on people for crimes committed before age eighteen.

Two young men, Mahmoud A. and Ayaz M., were hanged in public in Mashhad on July 19, 2005. Press reports indicate that they were executed for sexually assaulting a thirteen-year-old boy fourteen months earlier. One of the accused was seventeen years old at the time of the alleged crime; the other was apparently seventeen or eighteen. Each victim also received 228 lashes for theft, disturbing public order, and consuming alcohol.

The practice of executing people for crimes they committed while juveniles remains common in Iran. In 2004, Iran executed four people for such crimes, and there are currently at least thirty juveniles facing sentences of death. Human Rights Watch has confirmed the names and ages at the time of offense of five juvenile offenders under sentence of death in Iran: Milad Bakhtiari, 17 years old; Hussein Haghi, 16 years old; Hussein Taranj, 17 years old; Farshad Saeedi, 17 years old; Saeed Khorrami, 16 years old.

Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all circumstances because of its cruel and inhumane nature. Human rights principles and protections are founded upon respect for the inherent dignity of all human beings and the inviolability of the human person. These principles cannot be reconciled with the death penalty, a form of punishment that is unique in its barbarity and finality. The intrinsic fallibility of all criminal justice systems assures that even when full due process of law is respected, innocent persons may be executed.

In particular, in imposing sentences of death on people for crimes committed before the age of eighteen, Iran flouts clear and specific human rights obligations. Article 6.5 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) bars the imposition of the death penalty for such offenses. Article 37(a) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child contains the same prohibition and also bars the imposition of life sentences without parole for juvenile offenses. These provisions reflect the reality that children are different from adults. They lack the experience, judgement, maturity, and restraint of an adult.

Iran is a party to both treaties—it ratified the ICCPR without reservation and the Convention on the Rights of the Child subject to a general reservation of " the right not to apply any provisions or articles of the Convention that are incompatible with Islamic Laws and the international legislation in effect."

Both treaties forbid the imposition of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes that children have the right to protection from all forms of violence. It is not clear that Iran interprets its reservation to apply to these provisions, but to the extent that it does, the reservation is invalid. A state may not formulate a reservation that is incompatible with the object and purpose of a treaty. As the Committee on the Rights of the Child has repeatedly emphasized, both the juvenile death penalty and corporal punishment in the penal system are incompatible with the convention. Accordingly, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, in its January 2005 review of Iran's compliance with the treaty, urged the government

"to take the necessary steps to immediately suspend the execution of all death penalties imposed on persons for having committed a crime before the age of 18, to take the appropriate legal measures to convert them to penalties in conformity with the provisions of the Convention and to abolish the death penalty as a sentence imposed on persons for having committed crimes before the age of 18, as required by article 37 of the Convention".

It has also called upon Iran "to take all the necessary measures to ensure that persons who committed crimes while under 18 are not subjected to any form of corporal punishment and to immediately suspend the imposition and the execution of sentences of amputation, flogging, stoning and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

Iran 's Majlis has for four years considered legislation which would amend Article 1210 of the civil code to prohibit executions for crimes committed under the age of eighteen. We urge you to support such legislation and to end all forms of torture, including amputation, flogging, and stoning, imposed as criminal penalties.

Sincerely,

Hadi Ghaemi Michael Bochenek
Iran Researcher Counsel
Middle East and North Africa Division Children’s Rights Division