Iran: The last executioner of children

January 1, 2011

Iran: The last executioner of children

  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which provides in Article 6: "Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age"; and
  • the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which provides in Article 37, "Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without the possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age".

Iran is a state party to both treaties. It is therefore obliged to uphold their provisions and report periodically on the measures it has taken to give effect to the treaties.

Iran ratified the ICCPR in 1975 without reservations. Since then, none of the successive governments has altered this position. However, when ratifying the CRC in 1994, the government stated that it "reserves the right not to apply any provisions or articles of the Convention that are incompatible with Islamic Laws and the international legislation in effect". In response, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which monitors implementation of the CRC, expressed its concern that the "broad and imprecise nature of the State party’s general reservation potentially negates many of the Convention’s provisions and raises concern as to its compatibility with the object and purpose of the Convention."(4) Amnesty International considers that if the reservation is invoked to allow for the execution of child offenders, it would defeat the very object and purpose of the CRC. Iran’s reservation should therefore be removed or, in any event, never invoked as legal authority to allow for the execution of child offenders.

Secondly, Iran is violating customary international law. Amnesty International believes that the exclusion of child offenders from the death penalty is now so widely accepted in law and practice that it has become a rule of customary international law and so binding on every state. In this respect, the UN Human Rights Committee has affirmed that states are prohibited from entering any reservation allowing for the execution of children because the prohibition against execution of children represents customary international law.(5)

Thirdly, Iran is violating a peremptory norm – one of the few rules of international law of such importance to the international community as a whole that all states must abide by them in all circumstances.(6) The prohibition on the use of the death penalty against child offenders is one such rule.

On 10 January 2005, the Speaker of the Judiciary reportedly dismissed reports that Iran executed child offenders as "foreign propaganda… aimed at distorting the image of the Islamic Republic". The same month the Committee on the Rights of the Child noted that the Iranian delegation appearing before it had stated that Iran had suspended executions of people for crimes committed before they were 18.(7) However, on 19 January 2005, the same day that the Committee examined Iran’s report, 17-year-old Iman Farokhi was executed in Iran. The Committee deplored the fact that "such executions have continued since the consideration of the State party’s initial report, including one such execution on the day the second report was being considered."(8)

"…there is every reason to believe that the Iranian Judiciary is freely ignoring the prohibition on the juvenile death penalty. This constitutes a clear violation of Iran’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."
Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions(9)

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