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Iran: three juvenile offenders at risk of imminent execution


One of the three - Mohammad Kalhori - was only 15 when arrested

At least 90 people on death row for crimes that took place when they were under 18 

‘The Iranian authorities have a horrific track record of putting juvenile offenders to death’ - Saleh Higazi 

The Iranian authorities must immediately halt plans to execute three young men who are on death row for crimes that took place when they were under the age of 18, said Amnesty International.

Amnesty has learned that the three men - Mohammad Kalhori, Barzan Nasrollahzadeh and Shayan Saeedpour, who were all convicted for separate crimes that took place while they were minors - are at risk of imminent execution (see case details below). 

Iran is one of only a handful of countries that executes juvenile offenders - in flagrant violation of international law - and over the past three years the Iranian authorities have stepped up such executions. Amnesty has also noted an alarming pattern of the Iranian authorities scheduling juvenile offender executions at short notice to minimise public or private interventions to save people’s lives. 

Amnesty is aware of more than 90 cases of people in Iran currently on death row for crimes that took place while they were under 18, though the real number is likely to be far higher. 

As a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child Iran is legally obliged to treat everyone under the age of 18 as a child and ensure that they are never subject to the death penalty.

Saleh Higazi, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, said:

“The Iranian authorities must act quickly to save these young men’s lives. 

“Failing to stop their execution would be another abhorrent assault on children’s rights by Iran. 

“The Iranian authorities have a horrific track record of putting juvenile offenders to death in flagrant violation of international law and its own human rights obligations.”

Mohammad Kalhori was 15 years old when he was arrested in December 2014 over the fatal stabbing of one of his schoolteachers. In March 2016, a court in Lorestan Province found him guilty of murder and he was initially sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay “blood money” (diyah) to the victim’s family. In its verdict, the court relied on a state medical opinion which concluded he did not have “mental growth and maturity” at the time of the crime. However, this was overturned on appeal by the Supreme Court and in January 2017 another court in Lorestan dismissed arguments about Kalhori’s “mental growth and maturity” and convicted him of murder, sentencing him to death. Since then, at least two judicial reviews of his case have been rejected and his family have now been told by the prosecutor’s office that his death sentence will be implemented soon.

Under Iran’s Islamic Penal Code judges have the discretion to replace the death penalty with an alternative punishment if they determine that the juvenile offender did not understand the nature of the crime or its consequences, or that there were doubts about his or her “mental growth and maturity” at the time of the crime. 

Barzan Nasrollahzadeh (pictured) was arrested by Ministry of Intelligence officials at the age of 17 in Sanandaj, Kurdistan Province in May 2010. He was held for several months in a Ministry of Intelligence detention facility in Sanandaj without access to his family or a lawyer. He has said that during this period he was tortured, including with an electric-shock device. Following his trial in August 2013, he was sentenced to death after being convicted of “enmity against God.” He is currently held in Raja’i Shahr prison, Karaj. His request for judicial review of his case has been rejected, which means his sentence may be sent for implementation soon.   

Shayan Saeedpour was arrested at 17 after surrendering himself at a police station for the murder of another person during a fight in August 2015. In October 2018, Kurdistan’s criminal court sentenced him to death for first degree murder and to 80 lashes for drinking alcohol. 

Obligations under children’s convention

Amnesty is calling on Iran’s parliament to urgently amend Article 91 of the 2013 Islamic Penal Code to abolish the death penalty for crimes committed by people under 18 in line with Iran’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Amnesty is also calling on doctors affiliated with Iran’s Legal Medicine Organisation, an organisation which provides courts with medical opinions on the “maturity” of persons convicted of crimes committed when they were still children, not to give medical legitimacy to judicial processes that lead to executions of people who were under 18 at the time of the crime. 

Amnesty opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to execute the prisoner. The death penalty is a violation of the right to life.

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