Death Penalty: New report shows USA and Iran top child offender execution table

Since 1990 the USA has executed 19 child offenders (those convicted of offences committed when they were aged below 18), and Iran 10 - including three this year, most recently a 16-year-old girl hanged for the ‘crime’ of sex outside of marriage.

In the same 15-year period a total of nine child offender executions are known to have occurred in six further countries - China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen - though none of these countries now sees such executions as lawful or necessary. Other convicted child offenders remain under sentence of death in Pakistan, the Philippines and Sudan.

Amnesty International’s report comes ahead of the US Supreme Court’s reconsideration of the constitutionality of executing child offenders. The US court is due to hear oral arguments on 13 October. Amnesty International has already submitted an ‘amicus’ briefing to the court arguing that these executions violate international law. Iran is also reportedly considering making such executions unlawful.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“It is shocking that the USA and Iran are flouting the international ban on executing child offenders.

“Shamefully the USA and Iran have between them judicially killed more than three-quarters of all child offenders put to death in the world in the past decade and a half.

“The USA and Iran now urgently need to amend their laws to respect the fact that child offenders - while deserving punishment - should not be executed.

“We oppose all use of the death penalty while finding the judicial killing of child offenders particularly abhorrent.”

The report’s summary of global developments includes the following information:

Iran

Last month in Iran a 16-year-old girl - Ateqeh Rajabi - was publicly hanged in a city centre street in Neka, in the northern province of Mazandaran. Her ‘crime’ was to have had sexual relations outside of marriage, described by the court as “acts incompatible with chastity.”

During her trial three months earlier Ateqeh was not allowed legal representation and the judge severely criticised her dress. It is also alleged that Ateqeh was mentally ill both at the time of her ‘offence’ and during the trial proceedings.

Although Ateqeh’s national identity card stated that she was aged 16, the Mazandaran Judiciary announced at her execution that she was 22. According to press reports, the lower court judge who issued the original sentence also put the noose around Ateqeh’s head on the gallows.

Ateqeh’s co-defendant, an unnamed man, was reportedly sentenced to 100 lashes. He was released after the sentence was carried out.

USA

Scott Allen Hain was executed in the USA in April 2003 for a crime committed when he was 17. Since then several executions of child offenders have been stayed pending the outcome of Supreme Court deliberations.

There is a trend at US state level toward raising the minimum age to 18 - most recently in South Dakota and Wyoming earlier this year. Meanwhile no US state has lowered the minimum age since executions resumed in the country in 1977. Twenty-two child offenders have been executed in seven US states since 1977. Over 70 child offenders are currently under sentence of death in the country.

China

Although by law in China no one should be executed for a crime committed when aged under 18, child offenders continue to be executed because courts apparently take insufficient care to determine ages.

In March this year Gao Pan was executed for a crime committed in 2001, possibly before he was 18 years old. Conflicting information on official documents and the use of different calendar systems had lead to confusion over his true age.

In an attempt to prove that Gao was 18 at the time of the crime, the state prosecutor provided a household registration document signed by Gao’s grandfather that on further examination was reportedly proven false. Hebei Province High People’s Court meanwhile rejected 32 items of evidence provided by Gao’s lawyer supporting the claim that he was not 18 at the time of the crime. The court also rejected a request made by Gao’s family to carry out a medical check that might have helped to clarify his age.

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