2007 – Iran is, at the time of writing (May), the only country known to have executed a child offender.
Amnesty International is publishing this report in order to draw international attention to this grave and long-standing violation of human rights and to support the valiant efforts being made in Iran by Iranians to stop child executions and to secure a complete end to the use of the death penalty for child offenders.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty unreservedly for anyone, regardless of their age and regardless of the nature of the crime or the character of the condemned. Every execution is an affront to human dignity, a human rights violation of premeditated cruelty that denies the right to life proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Ending executions of child offenders in Iran, while a major objective in itself, is just one step on the road to total abolition – but a vitally important step that should be taken without delay.
Amnesty International is calling on the Iranian authorities, both political and judicial, to take immediate steps to end the shameful practice of executing child offenders. The authorities should impose a moratorium on all such executions until the law is amended to eliminate any possibility that those convicted of crimes committed before they reached the age of 18 can be executed.
The authorities should also, without delay, take steps progressively to reduce the range of offences under Iranian law which can incur the death penalty and to ensure that all court proceedings in which defendants face capital charges are conducted in full conformity with international fair trial standards, including the right of appeal to a higher tribunal and to petition for clemency if sentenced to death.
2. Iranian law and the death penalty
Under the Islamic Penal Code of Iran, which entered into force after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, state-sanctioned killing can be the punishment for a large number of offences.(14) Amnesty International takes no position on the Iranian legal system or the Penal Code per se, or with regard to its provisions, including those inspired by Islamic law. However, it believes strongly that the Iranian authorities are responsible for ensuring that Iran’s legal system conforms fully to international human rights law and standards, including the treaties that Iran is obliged to uphold under international law.
"The overwhelming international consensus that the death penalty should not apply to juvenile offenders stems from the recognition that young persons, because of their immaturity, may not fully comprehend the consequences of their actions and should benefit from less severe sanctions than adults. More importantly, it reflects the firm belief that young persons are more susceptible to change, and thus have a greater potential for rehabilitation than adults."
Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
The Penal Code distinguishes five types of crime: hodoud (crimes against divine will, for which the penalty is prescribed by Islamic law); qesas (retribution in kind, broadly akin to "an eye for an eye"); diyeh (compensation), ta’zir (crimes that incur discretionary punishments applied by the state that are not derived from Islamic law); and deterrent punishments, which include fines, cancellation of licenses, closure of business premises, forced residence, travel restrictions and denial of other rights (such as the right to work in a particular profession).(15 )The death penalty is provided for certain hodoud and ta’zir crimes, and is available under qesas for murder.