In Iran, the regime is known for its use of executions, particularly among those non-violent offenders. Drug offenses have often resulted in receiving death sentences, despite a change in Iranian law that made some drug offenses punishable by a prison term, although that is still at the discretion of the judge. Many of the cases that have been appealed were denied and their death penalties were confirmed. Yet, for the price for juvenile offenders is even higher.
According to Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, in a surge in January, three people were executed for murders committed at 15 or 16, while some of the 80 juvenile offenders on death row are in danger of soon being executed.
Many of these juvenile offenders have been tortured or abused to get confessions, which then are used as part of their sentencing. The regime then waits until they are over 18 before executing them, although this is not always the case.
“The execution of juvenile offenders is unequivocally prohibited under international law, regardless of the circumstances and nature of the crime committed,” said al-Hussein.
The top United Human Rights official, al-Hussein has called on Iran to stop all executions of young people convicted of carrying out crimes before they turned 18.
“There are appeal processes, but sometimes it’s rather opaque as to exactly what’s happening,” U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a news briefing.
“Often you do get these kind of negotiations going on between the family of the convicted person and the family of the victim in murder cases,” said Colville, referring to “diyah” or blood money paid to halt an execution.
Other officials have called for Iran to put a moratorium on any executions, but the regime has not halted executions at all. In 2017, Iran was known to have executed five juvenile offenders, and this is a routine violation of international law.
In 2016, Iran was the regional leader of executions, and the number of executions in Iran has only increased under the so-called moderate President Hassan Rouhani. The alarming and increasing number of executions in Iran highlight the fact that human rights standards have not improved under the presidency of Hassan Rouhani. Instead the situation has been worsening under the so-called moderate Iranian government, and particularly after the nuclear agreement was reached. If the West and human rights organizations defend liberty and social justice and if they want to be on the right side of the history, they should take serious steps in pressuring Iran to respect human rights through various means.