Another child offender executed in Iran

Sadly Iran seems to be getting rather a lot of attention from Amnesty at the moment. I’ve lost count of the number of Urgent Actions we’ve issued recently on the country, asking our members to write letters to stop executions or demand the release of human rights activists who’ve been locked up. Recently I had praised the authorities in a press release for saying that they would halt executions by stoning – possibly the cruelest punishment around – only to find myself days later highlighting the case of a woman whose stoning had been commuted to 100 lashes. And then only because she was accused of adultery.

On a positive note, one reason why Amnesty members do write a lot of letters to the Iranian authorities is that it works. We have a good record of getting death sentences commuted, particularly when international action is used to support campaigners working within Iran. The Stop Stoning Forever and Stop Child Executions campaigns are great examples of this.

But it doesn’t always work.

Yesterday at 11am Reza Hejazi was hanged for a crime he committed when he was only 15 years old.

He had been one of a group of people involved in a dispute with a man in September 2004, which resulted in the man being fatally stabbed. Reza Hejazi was arrested and tried for murder, and on 14 November 2005 he was sentenced to qesas
(retribution).

International law completely forbids the execution of people for crimes committed when they were children. Iran has signed up to the ICCPR and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and so has committed not to execute anyone for crimes committed when they were under 18.

One of the many strong arguments against the death penalty is that it completely rules out the possibility of reform or remorse in the accused. When the person is a child those arguments are even more powerful.

And yet since 1990 the Iranian authorities have executed at least 36 juvenile offenders, including eight in 2007. The execution today of Reza Hejazi brings the number of juvenile executions to five so far in 2008. No other country is known to
have executed a single juvenile offender this year.

What’s more, at least 132 juvenile offenders remain on death row in Iran, although the true number could be much higher.

As I mentioned above, campaigning really can make a difference in Iran. Death sentences are commuted. So please fill in our appeal to save Behnoud Shojaee, Mohammad Feda’i, Saeed Jazee and Salah Taseb, all juvenile offenders facing the death penalty. Clearly Iran still needs to get a lot of attention from Amnesty supporters.

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