Saeed Jazee is one of the youngster facing execution He was 17 when he was accused of crime. © www.stopchildexecutions.com
14 July 08 – Four minors are to be executed within the coming days in Iran. According to Amnesty International, nearly 150 youths are currently awaiting the death penalty. Human rights organizations around the world are mobilizing.
Carole Vann/Human Rights Tribune – Sina Paymard was 18 and two weeks old when his executioners took him to be hanged for a murder he had committed two years earlier. After putting the noose around his neck, he was asked if he had a final wish. Sina asked to play the oriental flute known as the ney. The music that he played was so moving that the victim’s family was overcome and agreed to commute the death penalty and accept a ‘blood ransom’. That was in 2006. Today Sima is alive in a prison in Karaj, Iran.
Iran has the saddest record of executing minors in the world. Since 1990, the authorities have hanged at least 30 youths, more than in any other country. The last victim, Mohammed Hassanzadeh, a young Kurd barely 16 years old, was executed on June 10.
In 2007, only two other countries – Saudi Arabia and Yemen – executed delinquent minors but their numbers were insignificant compared to Iran where there were at least seven such executiuons in 2008.
140 minors wait in the corridor of death
According to Amnesty International, 140 minors are awaiting the death penalty in Iran. Four of them are expected to be executed within the next few days. 24 human rights organizations around the world – including NGOs from Egypt, Yemen, Morocco, Turkey, Bahrain and Iran itself – launched an appeal on July 8 to Teheran authorities to suspend the executions and commute the prison sentences. Across the globe, voices have been raised to ban the death penalty for minors once and for all in Iran.
“These executions are contrary to international law which bans capital punishment for minors, however serious their crimes,” said Bernard Boeton of Terre des Hommes during a press conference in Geneva on July 8. “Iran has signed and ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International covenant on civil and political rights. No other reason, whether religious or cultural, can prevail over international treaties.”
Only the victim’s family may commute a death sentence
However, Jean Zermatten, director of the International Institiute for Children’s Rights (IDE), said that Iran attached serious reservations to its signature on these treaties, citing the prevalence of Sharia (Islamic) law and the Koran over international law. And that remains the sticking point. At a press conference on July first in Teheran, Alireza Jamshidi, spokesman for Iran’s judiciary, affirmed that Iranian law does not anticipate executing youths of less than 18 years of age. On the other hand, there is the question of making amends on the part of young offenders, an issue that is forseen in Islamic law which recommends the death penalty in cases of homicide. Only the victim’s family may commute the death penalty in consideration of a ‘blood ransom’.”
“The distinction made between ‘execution’ and ‘reparation’ makes no sense,” said Drewery Dyke of Amnesty International. “A person is executed as a matter of state inferred by a specific judgement rendered by a competent court which is also the case with ‘reparation’ penalties handed down by Islamic tribunals. For this type of ambiguous ruling, Iranian authorities try to disguise the fact that each time a delinquent minor is executed in the country, Iran is in violation of international law. It is imperative that the political powers in this country bring an immediate end to these executions and modify the law in a way that no one will be killed by the state for whatever crime, including a homicide that might have been committed by someone not yet 18 years old.”
Translated from French by Pamela Taylor