Focus on the execution of children in
The United Nations Convention on the Rights
of the Child which was adopted by General Assembly resolution 44/25 of
No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age.
All executions by hanging in
In some cases the execution of a child has
been delayed until they reach 18 as a pretence of
abiding by the convention, whilst ignoring the fact that they were much younger
when sentenced to death. In other cases their seems to be official obfuscation regarding the precise
age of prisoners. 19 year old Gholam Reza Saeedi who was hanged
in the central city of
News leaked out in January 2009 of the execution of Ahmad Zare'e in
On the 2nd of May 2009 Delara Darabi, aged 23, was hanged at Rasht Central Prison despite a two-month stay of execution in the case issued on the 19th of April 2009 by the head of the Judiciary and International protests. She had been convicted of the murder of her father's female cousin, Mahin, during a robbery in September 2003, at the age of 17, although it is thought that her boyfriend, Amir Hossein Sotoudeh actually committed the crime and that she initially confessed to save him. She later retracted this confession. Sotoudeh got ten years in jail for his part in the crime. In contravention of Iranian law neither her family or lawyer were informed until after the execution had been carried out.
On Sunday 11th of October 2009, 21-year-old Behnoud Shojai was hanged in
Teheran's Evin prison having been convicted of stabbing to death 17-year-old Ehsan Nasrollahi during a fight
in a Teheran park in August 2005 when he himself was aged 17. Former
Mosleh Zamani was hanged on
Three young men, convicted of murdering a 15 years old boy on
Although a very small number of other
Islamic countries permit the death sentence to be passed on children, there are
no recorded instances of these sentences being actually carried out in any
other country in the last few years. It
is probable that most are commuted in the face of the international
condemnation that follows from the execution of children. It is thought that
Despite concerted campaigning at all levels
on this issue the Iranian government has so only far conceded that it will
cease executing children convicted of drug offences but will continue to permit
the execution of those convicted of murder.
Assistant attorney general Hossein Zebhi announced in October 2008 that
The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has also criticised
should persons under 18 be spared from the consequences of their actions? It is widely held that the brains of
teenagers are not fully developed before 18 and that they often have less self
control over their actions than adults.
The case of 15 year old Mostafa Naqdi perfectly illustrates this point. Mostafa was
riding his motorbike when he stopped outside a school in
The most scandalous and disgraceful instance
of a child being executed occurred on Sunday, August the 15th, 2004, when a 16
year old girl named Atefeh Rajabi
was hanged in public in the town of Neka. Atefeh was executed
for “engaging in acts incompatible with chastity.”
She was not represented by a lawyer at her trial and efforts by her family to recruit a lawyer was to no avail. She had to defend herself and told the religious judge, Haji Rezaie, that he should punish the main perpetrators of moral corruption and not the victims. She further enraged the him by removing some of her clothing (probably just her headscarf) and he accused her of having a “sharp tongue.” It is claimed that he pursued her execution beyond all normal procedures and finally gained the approval of the Supreme Court and the chief of the nation’s “judiciary branch.” Her age was given in official court documents as 22 but her birth certificate has been viewed by reliable sources and shows she really was just 16. At the place of execution in the town’s square, the judge personally put the rope around the girl’s neck and gave the signal to the crane operator to begin her hanging.
Witnesses reported that she begged for mercy and had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the execution truck. She repeatedly shouted, "repentance" which, according to Islamic law, is supposed to grant the accused the right to an immediate stay of execution while an appeal is heard.
Judge Haji Rezaie said he was pleased to hang her and is quoted as saying, "Society has to be kept safe from acts against public morality." Her body was left dangling from the crane for some time so people could see what happened to teenagers who committed acts incompatible with chastity.
It should be noted that, according to the Islamic Republic’s penal code, the presence of an attorney for the defense is mandatory regardless of the defendant’s ability to afford one. Nevertheless, Atefeh did not get an attorney, despite the efforts of her father to raise money for one. Atefeh’s boyfriend, who had been arrested as well, received 100 lashes and was afterwards released.
So what was Atefeh’s “crime”? It would seem that it amounted to having sex with her boyfriend. According to judicial records, Atefeh had five previous convictions for having sex with unmarried men. For each offence, she had been jailed and flogged. She confided in her friends that she had been abused by the guards in prison. A lawsuit is being brought by Shadi Sadr, a lawyer representing the Rajabi family, against the judiciary for wrongful execution. Sadr is also trying to bring a murder charge against the judge, Haji Rezaie. It is doubtful that these efforts will succeed.
A very controversial public hanging was
carried out in Mashad in northeast
The lack of any transparency in this case, as in so many others, is disturbing. Why does the Iranian government want to execute children in contravention of international conventions to which it is a signatory? Why is their no reliable source of the age of these children and why does the state often claim very different ages from those claimed by the parents? Is the execution of children either mandated by or justified by Sharia law?
If you are interested in helping campaign against the shameful practice of executing children please look at the Stop Child Executions website run by Nazanin Afshin-Jam at http://www.stopchildexecutions.com/ where you can find far more detail on individual cases and sign a petition against this barbaric practice. She is also has a page on Facebook with the same title.