Iran: Quashing of child offender death sentence welcomed as Amnesty releases list of 23 child offenders still on death row

Amnesty International today (16 January) welcomed the lifting of the death sentence against 19-year-old Nazanin Fathehi and a stay of execution in the case of fellow child offender Sina Paymard.

But the organisation released a list of 23 child offenders - those under 18 at the time of their offence – still on death row and called on the Iranian authorities to take immediate steps to prevent all executions of child offenders and abolish the death penalty for all child offenders.

On 14 January 2006, judges in a Tehran criminal court cleared Nazanin Fatehi of pre-meditated murder, but ordered her to pay diyeh (blood money) to the family of the man she killed in self-defence in March 2005. She had been sentenced to death for murder in January 2006, but following international protests, including by a Canadian-Iranian beauty queen Nazanin Afshin-Jam, her death sentence was quashed by the Supreme Court in May 2006 and her case sent for retrial.

In another case, musician Sina Paymard, who was sentenced to death for murdering another youth when he was 16, has reportedly been granted a stay of execution. Sina Paymard was scheduled to be executed just after his 18th birthday in September 2006, but was granted a last minute reprieve at the gallows by the victim’s family, who were moved by his playing of the ney (a Middle Eastern flute), his last request. His execution was postponed for two months but the victim’s family demanded blood money of 150 million toumans (over $US160,000) which Sina Paymard’s family was unable to pay. His lawyer also asked for a review of his case in November 2006, arguing that the court had not properly considered evidence that Sina Paymard suffered from a mental disorder.

At least 23 other child offenders reportedly remain on death row in Iran. Their names, and ages (where known) at the times of their crimes are as follows:

      Beniamin Rasouli, 17

      Hossein Toranj, 17

      Hossein Haghi, 17

      Morteza Feizi, 16

      Sa’eed Jazee, 17

      Ali Mahin Torabi, 16

      Milad Bakhtiari, 16

      Farshad Sa’eedi, 17

      Mostafa, 16

      Mahmoud, 17

      Saber

      Hamid, 17

      Sajjad, 17

      Farzad, 15

      Hossein Gharabaghloo, 16

      Asghar, 16

      Iman, 17

      Ne’mat, 15

      Mohammad Mousavi

      Delara Darabi, 17

      Hamzeh S, 17

      Shahram Pourmansouri, 17

      Hedayat Niroumand, 15

    Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

    “The death penalty is always inhumane and always wrong – but the execution of child offenders takes that brutality one step further.

    “Virtually no other country executes child offenders. Iran should come in from the cold and end this appalling practice.”

    • Find out more about Amnesty's campaign against the Death Penalty
    • Take action to Stop Child Executions in Iran /li>

    Background

    Iran has undertaken not to execute anyone for an offence committed when they were under the age of 18, as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Nevertheless, Amnesty International has recorded 21 executions of child offenders in Iran since 1990. In 2006, Iran and Pakistan were the only countries in the world to continue to execute child offenders (although Pakistan enacted in 2000 the Juvenile Justice System Law which abolished the death penalty for people under 18 at the time of the crime in most parts of the country). The Kurdistan Human Rights Organisation has reported that in late December 2006, 22-year-old Naser Batmani was hanged in Iran’s Sanandaj Prison for a murder committed when he was under 18. It appears that the Iranian authorities are keeping child offenders sentenced to death in prison until they pass their 18th birthday before executing them.

    The Iranian authorities have been considering passing legislation to ban the use of the death penalty for offences committed under the age of 18 for several years. A bill establishing special courts for Children's rights and adolescents was reportedly passed in the summer of 2006 but has not yet been approved by the Council of Guardians, which vets Iran’s legislation for conformity with Islamic principles.

    In January 2005 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child urged Iran immediately to stay all executions of people convicted of crimes committed when they were under 18, and to abolish the use of the death penalty in such cases.

    On 9 December 2005, Philip Alston, the United Nations Human Rights Commission’s Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said “At a time when virtually every other country in the world has firmly and clearly renounced the execution of people for crimes they committed as Children's rights, the Iranian approach is particularly unacceptable... It is all the more surprising because the obligation to refrain from such executions is not only clear and incontrovertible, but the Government of Iran has itself stated that it will cease this practice.”

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