Amnesty International recently called on Iranian authorities to halt the execution of a 24-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman. She was sentenced to be executed at the age of 17. The organization pointed out that her trial did not meet international law for a fair trial, noting that forced confessions were used against her and she had limited access to an attorney.
“The execution of Zeinab Sekaanvand was a sickening demonstration of the Iranian authorities’ disregard for the principles of juvenile justice and international human rights law,” said Phillip Luther, Amnesty International’s advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa. “The fact that her death sentence followed a grossly unfair trial makes her execution even more outrageous.”
Zeinab Sekaavand was executed on October 2 in Uremieh central prison. She was charged with murdering her husband, who she was married to at the age of 15. During their marriage, she claimed that there was verbal, and physical abuse, and he refused repeated requests for a divorce.
No legal representation during trial
Throughout the legal journey to her sentence of execution, Sekaavand had no attorney. It was only at the last trial session where she was granted one. During that session, she retracted her confessions, which she claimed were obtained after police officers beat her over the course of 20 days. She was arrested in February 2012.
She also told the judge that the murder was committed by her husband’s brother, who had also raped her on numerous occasions. The brother had told Sekaavand that if she accepted responsibility for the crime, then he would pardon her under Islamic law as the family of the victim.
The courts did not investigate her claims, and her sentence reflected retribution in kind. The Iranian courts also ignored the 2013 juvenile sentencing provisions put into the penal code. Death sentences are banned for juvenile offenders under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Both of these have been ratified by the Iranian regime.
Juvenile offenders continue to be executed
There are hundreds more juvenile offenders on death row in Iran. These children are often held until they are adults, then their sentences are carried out. Trials in many of these cases show multiple inconsistencies and there is often a lack of true legal representation. This practice has been condemned by multiple international organizations and calls for a moratorium have been made in the United Nations.
“It appears the Iranian authorities are increasingly scheduling the execution of people who were children at the time of the crime at very short notice to minimize the possibility of effective public and private interventions,” said Luther. “We continue to urge the Iranian authorities to immediately establish an official moratorium on executions, commute all death sentences with a view to abolishing the death penalty, and prohibit the use of the death penalty against people below the age of 18 at the time of the crime.”
According to Amnesty International, Iran executed more than 500 people last year. In September, three Kurdish men were executed despite evidence that their confessions were tainted because they were obtained under torture.