Amnesty International has urged the Iranian authorities to 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.
In a press release issued on February 22, the London-based rights group said it 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.
Amnesty International’s Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director Saleh Higazi 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. 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.”
“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.
Amnesty International said it was aware of more than 90 cases of people in Iran currently on death row for crimes that took place when they were under 18. The rights organization said the real number is likely to be far higher.
Kalhori was 15 years old when he was arrested in December 2014 over the fatal stabbing of one of his schoolteachers, the rights group said.
According to Amnesty International, Nasrollahzadeh was arrested by the Ministry of Intelligence at the age of 17. He has said that he was tortured while in detention. He was later sentenced to death on charges of “enmity against God.”
The rights group said Saeedpour was arrested when he was 17 for a murder committed during a fight in 2015. Saeedpour was sentenced to death for first-degree murder in 2018.
Amnesty said it had noted an “alarming pattern” by the Iranian authorities, who schedule executions of juvenile offenders at short notice in order to minimize the chances of public or private interventions for a reprieve.
It called 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 international obligations.
Iran has the highest rate of juvenile executions in the world, despite being a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, an international human rights treaty that forbids capital punishment for anyone under 18.
At least five juvenile offenders were executed in Iran in 2018, against a juvenile offender in the country since January 2018. Dozens of others of people who were sentenced as juveniles remain on death row.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein condemned the continued implementation of the death penalty against juvenile offenders in Iran, stressing that the execution of juvenile offenders is strictly prohibited by international law under all circumstances, regardless of the nature of the crime alleged to have been committed.
“I am deeply disturbed that Iran continues to implement the death penalty against juvenile offenders, with some 85 others reportedly on death row,” Zeid said on in a statement on June 28, 2018.