February 23, 2019
The Iranian authorities must immediately halt plans to execute three young men who are on death row for crimes that took place while they were under the age of 18, said Amnesty International.
The organization has learned that 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.
“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. International human rights law strictly prohibits the use of the death penalty against people who were under the age of 18 when the crime was committed,” said Saleh Higazi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.
“The death penalty is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Its use is horrendous in all circumstances but is even more appalling when it is used as punishment against people who were under 18 when the crimes took place and within a judicial system that is blatantly unfair.”
Iran is one of a handful of countries that continue to execute juvenile offenders in flagrant violation of international law. Over the past three years the Iranian authorities have stepped up such executions.
The organization 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.
“The Iranian authorities have a horrific track record of putting juvenile offenders to death in flagrant violation of international law and their own human rights obligations,” said Saleh Higazi.
“Instead of sending more juvenile offenders to the gallows the authorities must commute all death sentences and immediately reform Iran’s Penal Code to abolish the use of the death penalty against all those who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime. This should be a first step towards abolishing the death penalty completely.”
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.
Amnesty International has also noted an alarming pattern of the Iranian authorities scheduling executions of juvenile offenders at short notice to minimize the chances of public or private interventions to save people’s lives.
Mohammad Kalhori was 15 years old when he was arrested in December 2014 over the fatal stabbing of one of his schoolteachers. Branch One of the Provincial Criminal Court of Lorestan Province found him guilty of murder in March 2016. 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 that he did not have “mental growth and maturity” at the time of the crime.
However, the verdict was overturned on appeal by the Supreme Court and in January 2017, Branch Two of the Provincial Criminal Court of Lorestan Province dismissed any arguments about Mohammad Kalhori’s “mental growth and maturity” and convicted him of murder sentencing him to death. At least two judicial reviews of his case since then 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 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, by being suspended upside down, and beaten. After 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 that 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 branch One of Kurdistan’s criminal court sentenced him to death for first degree murder and to 80 lashes for drinking alcohol.
Amnesty International 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 (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
The organization is also calling on doctors affiliated with Iran’s Legal Medicine Organization, an organization 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 International 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.