Iran: The last executioner of Children's rights

Iran is the only country in the world that still executes child offenders – people convicted of crimes committed before they were 18 - said Amnesty International in a new report today (27 June).

The report lists the names of 71 child offenders currently facing the death penalty, though it explains that the real figure could be much higher, and details the cases of those child offenders who have already been executed. Shockingly, of the 24 child offenders executed since 1990, 11 were still Children's rights at the time of their execution. Others are held in prison until their eighteenth birthday before being hanged.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“All executions are cruel and inhumane, but denying the life and potential of a child is particularly sickening.

"The Iranian authorities must step into line with the rest of the world and end the shameful practice of executing child offenders.”

Iran has executed more child offenders than any other country since 1990, says the report, and is one of the only countries to have executed child offenders in the past few years. No other country has executed child offenders this year, according to Amnesty’s figures.

The report details the case of Sina Paymard (picture available) sentenced to death for killing a man when he was 17. Two weeks after his 18th birthday in 2006, Sina was taken to the gallows to be hanged. As he stood with a noose around his neck, he was asked for his final request and said that he would like to play the ney – a Middle Eastern flute. Relatives of the murder victim were so moved by his playing that they agreed to accept diyeh (blood money) instead of retribution by death, as is allowed under Iranian law. However they have subsequently refused to accept the money and Sina Paymard remains under sentence of death in Reja’i Shahr prison.

Amnesty International today urged the Iranian authorities to implement a moratorium on all executions of child offenders as a first step towards a complete ban on such executions. It also refutes statements made by Iranian officials in which they deny that Children's rights are executed in Iran.

In many cases, child offenders under sentence of death in Iran are kept in prison until they reach 18 before execution. In this period, some win appeals against their conviction. Some have their sentence overturned on appeal and are freed after a retrial. Some are reprieved by the family of the victim in cases of qesas (retribution) crimes and are asked to pay diyeh instead. Some are executed.

A growing movement has emerged over recent years in Iran that is pushing for the abolition of the death penalty for child offenders, driven primarily by a courageous movement of human rights defenders and activists. This movement also includes members of the government and the judiciary. A draft law introduced by the judiciary in 2001 provides for the abolition of the death sentence for minors. Although the law is far from perfect - it does not appear to prohibit the death penalty for child offenders for all categories of crimes - it reflects an ongoing internal debate and opens up the possibility of future reform.

Kate Allen said:

“Campaigning has helped save lives in Iran. Convictions have been overturned, cases retried and stays of execution have been won.

“People in Iran are fighting against the death penalty for child offenders, and need the support of others around the world who believe in human rights.”

The report also highlights the execution of Atefeh Rajabi Sahaaleh, sentenced for "crimes against chastity" and hanged at the age of 16 on August 2004, and Delara Darabi (picture available) a young female artist who is awaiting execution for a crime that she says was committed by her then-boyfriend.

Delara Darabi’s father said:

"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."

Although executions of child offenders are few compared to the total number of executions in Iran, they highlight the government’s disregard of its commitments and obligations under international law, which prohibits in all circumstances the use of the death penalty against child offenders.

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