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Iran: two 17-year-old boys flogged and secretly executed

Mehdi Sohrabifar (l) and Amin Sedaghat (r) (Credit: Private)

Cousins Mehdi Sohrabifar and Amin Sedaghat apparently unaware they were to be executed until moments beforehand

Pair, arrested aged 15, convicted on rape charges following unfair trial and abuse allegations

Iran has executed nearly 100 juvenile offenders since 1990 - highest number in world

The Iranian authorities have flogged and secretly executed two 17-year-old boys, Amnesty International has learned. 

Mehdi Sohrabifar and Amin Sedaghat, who were cousins, were executed on 25 April in Adelabad prison in the city of Shiraz in southern Iran. Both were arrested aged 15 and convicted on multiple rape charges following an unfair trial. 

According to information received by Amnesty, the teenagers were unaware they had been sentenced to death until shortly before their executions. They bore lash marks on their bodies, indicating they had been flogged before their deaths. Their families and lawyers were not informed about the executions in advance and were deeply shocked to learn of the news.

Sohrabifar and Sedaghat had been held in a juvenile correction centre in Shiraz since 2017. On 24 April, they were transferred to Adelabad prison, apparently without knowing the reason. The same day, their families were granted a visit, but were not told that it was in preparation for their execution. The next day, the families suddenly received a call from Iran’s Legal Medicine Organisation, a state forensic institute, informing them of the executions and asking them to collect the bodies. 

The legal proceedings leading to the two boys’ conviction and sentence were unfair and flagrantly violated the principles of juvenile justice. Following their arrest, the cousins were held for two months in a police detention centre, where they said they were beaten. They also had no access to a lawyer during the investigation stage.

Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director, said: 

“The Iranian authorities have once again proved that they are sickeningly prepared to put children to death, in flagrant disregard of international law. 

“It seems they cruelly kept these two boys in the dark about their death sentences for two years, flogged them in the final moments of their lives and then carried out their executions in secret.

“The use of the death penalty against people who were under 18 at the time of the crime is strictly prohibited under international human rights law and is a flagrant assault on children’s rights. It is long overdue for Iranian parliamentarians to put an end to this harrowing situation by amending the penal code to ban the use of the death penalty against anyone who was under 18 at the time of the offence.

“We have identified a trend in which Iran’s authorities are carrying out executions of juvenile offenders in secret and without giving advance notice to the families, seemingly in a deliberate attempt to avoid global outrage.

“This makes it all the more important for influential international actors such as the EU to increase their diplomatic and public interventions to pressure Iran to end the use of the death penalty against juvenile offenders.”

Nearly 100 juvenile offenders executed since 1990

Amnesty has recorded the execution of 97 individuals in Iran who were under the age of 18 at the time of their alleged crime between 1990 and 2018. More than 90 others remain at risk of execution. Many have spent prolonged periods on death row - in some cases more than a decade. Some have had their executions scheduled and postponed repeatedly, adding to their torment - such conditions of uncertainty causing severe anguish and mental distress amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

The fact that Sohrabifar and Sedaghat’s executions were not made public adds to Amnesty’s concern that the real number of juvenile offender executions in Iran is higher than previously believed. Juvenile offenders currently on death row are at risk of being executed in secret if their cases are not brought to the attention of human rights organisations for public campaigning and advocacy. 

Iran remains the top executioner of children in the world. As a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Iran is legally obliged to treat anyone under the age of 18 as a child and ensure they are never subjected to the death penalty or life imprisonment.

The practice of subjecting children to police questioning in the absence of a guardian or lawyer violates the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which provides that children in conflict with the law must be guaranteed prompt legal assistance. Meanwhile, the use of the death penalty for rape is not permitted under international law, which states that its use must be restricted to the most serious crimes involving intentional killings. 

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 kill the prisoner. The death penalty is a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. 

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