Iran: The last executioner of children

January 1, 2011

Iran: The last executioner of children

In Iran, however, defendants only have the right to a lawyer after investigations are complete and they have been formally charged. This results in prolonged periods of incommunicado detention as well as interrogation without the presence of lawyers, both of which facilitate the use of torture or other ill-treatment to obtain confessions. The Islamic Penal Code specifies that confessions to hodoud and qesas offences may be used as a sole means of proving an offence.32 Lawyers may be present during committal proceedings, but are not allowed to speak until the end of proceedings. In "sensitive" cases, the judge has the discretionary power to exclude lawyers from the hearing that decides sentencing.33 If a defendant cannot afford a lawyer of their own choice, one is appointed for them by the court.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, reporting on its visit to Iran in February 2003, noted: "[T]he absence of a culture of counsel, which seriously undermines due process… The Group noted that many ordinary law prisoners have no understanding of the role of counsel and do not request the assistance of State appointed counsel. The latter are in any event few in number, and largely unmotivated owing to the low pay. As for the choice of counsel by political prisoners, this is increasingly difficult owing to the serious risk of harassment."34

International fair trial standards include the right to a public hearing, the right to trial by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal, the right not to be compelled to confess guilt, and the right to equality before the law and courts. These are embodied in Article 14 of the ICCPR and Article 40 of the CRC.

In Iran, the judge may refuse a public trial if it is deemed incompatible with accepted principles of "morality or public order".35 Access to clients by lawyers is at the discretion of the judge in cases that relate to national security or "corruption".36 Trials before Revolutionary Courts are almost always held in secret, and proceedings are often summary.

The rules of evidence in Iran are based on the constitutional principle of the presumption of innocence. However, this is limited in practice by the importance attached to confessions in Iranian courts.37

Equality before the law is undermined by the rules of evidence in Iran. Evidence by a man is equivalent to that of two women, and in cases dealing with some offences, such as adultery, testimony by a woman alone or given jointly with just one man cannot be accepted as evidence.38
The right to trial by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal is undermined in Iran because the Judiciary lacks the structural independence guaranteed by the Constitution. There is also a lack of separation of powers between the investigator, prosecutor and judge in some parts of the country. In 1994, in a reform of the Revolutionary and General Courts, these functions were vested in the presiding judge of the case under investigation. In 2002, the prosecution function was reinstated in General and Revolutionary Courts.39 However, at the time of writing, it appears that this has not been rolled out throughout Iran. In at least some areas outside the major towns, the functions of investigator, prosecutor and judge remain merged: judges both investigate and prosecute allegations, and then pass sentence, making an impartial hearing impossible. Amnesty International continues to receive reports of summary trials, particularly before Revolutionary Courts in the provinces, where defendants are brought before a single judge who questions them briefly, without the presence of a lawyer, and then hands down a sentence.
3. Executions of children

"Amnesty International’s sources of information are not reliable… people under 18 are not executed."
Judiciary spokesperson, Jamal Karimi-Rad, 8 May 200540

"There is much talk about the execution of young people under 18 in Iran which is not true… although the penal laws provide for the execution of those under-18, that sentence has not been enforced in our country until now… In cases concerning murder, where the culprit is under 18, utmost effort is made to win the satisfaction of the blood relatives."