UN human rights experts* are making an urgent appeal to the authorities in Iran to halt the execution of Mohammad Kalhori, a young man who was sentenced to death at 15 years old for killing his teacher.
Reports received by the experts suggest that Kalhori will be executed shortly after the end of Ramadan, even though international standards unequivocally forbid the imposition of the death sentence on anyone under 18 years old at the time of the offence.
“The Iranian authorities must halt the execution of this juvenile offender and annul the death sentence against him in compliance with their international obligations,” the experts said in a joint statement.
“Iran has committed itself to prohibiting the use of the death penalty for all those under 18 by its ratification of both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. As such, this execution is unlawful and arbitrary,” they concluded.
The experts stress that in 2013, Iran amended its Islamic Penal Code to allow judges to pronounce alternative sentences for juvenile offenders if there is any uncertainty about their “mental development” at the time of the crime, or if they had not realised the nature of the crime committed.
Assurances were given in 2016 by Iran to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child that the amendment (Article 91) would apply systematically for all juveniles on death row.
Based on a report by the State forensic institution which said Kalhori was not mentally mature at the time of the crime, the Criminal Court sentenced him to imprisonment and ordered him to pay a fine. However, following an appeal and apparent letters sent by a Government official and a Member of Parliament, the verdict was overturned by the Supreme Court and Kalhori was sentenced to death during a retrial.
“Notwithstanding the clear prohibition of the application of the death penalty for those under the age of 18, this case demonstrates flagrant disregard for the amendment to the Penal Code itself and raises concerns about possible interference in the independence of the judiciary,” the experts said.