Iran: The last executioner of children

January 1, 2011

Iran: The last executioner of children

Jurisdiction: Article 14 of the draft law provides that prosecution, investigation and trial in any case where a juvenile is accused of a crime will be undertaken by the juvenile court, provided that the punishment for the crime is less than three years’ imprisonment or that it involves a crime against chastity. However, Article 1 states that "[a]ll the offences of persons younger than 18… shall be investigated by the Juvenile Court." This is the specialized court that would be established by the draft law. At the same time, Article 10 states that "[i]n the event that children and juveniles commit offences, the investigation of which falls within the jurisdiction of the Provincial General Court, the Provincial General Court specifically assigned to investigate Juvenile Offences shall investigate them as directed by the present Law."

Article 1 seems to be at variance with Article 10. In Article 1, all cases of crimes by juveniles will be investigated by the newly established juvenile court, while Article 10 retains the jurisdiction of the Provincial General Court.

It is crucial for all laws to be clear about which court has jurisdiction over which cases. The draft law therefore needs to be clarified or amended.

Stopping an execution: Article 17 states: "In crimes other than those requiring the punishment of hadd [divine punishment], the enforcement of the judgment shall be stopped if the two parties reach a compromise during its enforcement or if the complainant withdraws the complaint."
This implies that in hodoud (plural of hadd) cases, the punishment cannot be stopped. In such cases, there appears to be no possibility of remission of sentence after judgement, even if a case is dropped by the complainant, who can be either a private individual or the prosecution.

Right to appeal: Article 27 states: "The juvenile court’s rulings and decisions… can be appealed against in all cases [emphasis added]. The deadline for the appeal is 20 days from the final notification [of the verdict]".
This right to appeal is broader than in the Law on Appeals, which specifies the crimes that may be appealed,20 and implies that the right to appeal is granted in all cases, including hodoud and qesas. Appeal goes to a higher court (usually an appeal court), and then the Supreme Court, and can challenge the judgement and sentence, or errors in the process. A successful appeal does not necessarily guarantee a lesser sentence. Where an appeal is upheld, the case is generally sent back to a lower court for retrial. The lower court can again pass a death sentence, which would be subject to the same process of approval as before and the possibility that a higher court could again choose to reject the sentence. In this event, the case would generally be passed back to a lower court once again, leading to the possibility that someone could be sentenced to death an indefinite number of times.

Forgiveness/pardon: Article 30 states that all juvenile crimes are pardonable. It adds that in the event of pardon by the plaintiff, "prosecution, the conduct of investigations or the carrying out of the sentence will be stopped."

This is referring to ta’zir and deterrent punishments as laid down in Article 12 of the Penal Code and further defined in Articles 16 and 17 (see above). This clearly excludes hodoud and qesas punishments from the right to pardon. Since most death sentences are imposed for crimes in these categories, most child offenders sentenced to death would still be unable to seek pardon for their crime if the draft becomes law.

Death sentences: Articles 33 and 35 specify the different punishments that can be imposed on juveniles. They both state that in cases of juveniles aged between 15 and 18, crimes punishable by death or life imprisonment for adults will be replaced by two to eight years’ detention at a correctional centre.