A group of UN experts recently called for immediate action against two death sentences, which were given to persons who committed the offences when they were children. This group of experts have further added that Iran must abide by the international human right laws and stop these executions.
The experts have also said that both of these executions must be halted. Instead, Iran should allow for a retrial of not only these two offenders, but also all the men who were convicted and sentenced to the death penalty before they were 18 years old.
The two persons mentioned are Mehdi Bohlouli and Peyman Barandah, who were sentenced to death in 2001 and 2012 respectively. Mehdi was only 17 years old when he was convicted back in 2001 for the fatal stabbing of a man during a fight. His execution was scheduled for April 19, but it was halted in the last hours. It is not clear if or when the execution will be carried out now.
The second offender, Peyman, was only 15 years old when he fatally stabbed another teenager and was sentenced to death in 2012. His execution has been scheduled for the 10th of May.
The experts have reported that, “These two cases bring the total of juvenile offenders scheduled for execution, that we have become aware of in Iran since January, to six. They include the cases of two young persons whose executions were carried out.” And they further added, “Taking into account that at least 90 people were on death row at the beginning of April for crimes committed under the age of 18, the exact number of those executed or at risk of execution is likely to be much higher.”
In 2013, Iran made amendments to its Islamic Penal Code and allowed the possibility of retrials for juveniles sentenced to death. And more assurances were given to the UN in 2016 that this amendment would apply systematically to all the juveniles currently on death row.
But according to the experts, these pledges have not been fulfilled. “Some of the young men executed recently were not even aware of the possibility of retrials, and the requests made by Mehdi Bohlouli and Peyman Barandah for retrial were simply rejected by the Supreme Court,” adding that in the other cases of Sajad Sanjari and Hamid Ahmadi, the courts had simply sentenced them to death again after the retrials.
The experts have also argued that the reason for the failure of the 2013 amendments lies within themselves, because these amendments allow the judges to announce alternative punishments after retrial only if they assess that the child was not mature enough or understand the crime.
The experts have concluded the report by stating, “Any assumption that a girl over nine years old or a boy older than 15 can be considered mature enough to be sentenced to death, infringes on the very basic principles of juvenile justice and violates both treaties. Furthermore, any death sentence undertaken in contravention of a Government’s international obligations, notably its duty to establish a juvenile justice system in line with international human rights standards, is unlawful and tantamount to an arbitrary execution.”
The experts who presented these findings include Ms. Asma Jahangir (Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran), Ms. Agnes Callamard (Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions), and Mr. Benyam Dawit Mezmur (Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child).