Dozens of people who were arrested in Iran for crimes committed before they turned 18 remain at risk of the death penalty despite recent reforms, with many having already spent years on death row, according to a report by Amnesty International released Tuesday.
The London-based group also found that Iran has executed at least 73 juvenile offenders between 2005 and 2015, including at least four last year.
Amnesty’s researchers were able to identify the names and locations of 49 juvenile offenders who face the death penalty, though the group notes that actual numbers could be higher. A 2014 UN report put the number of juvenile offenders at risk of execution at more than 160.
The report casts doubt on laws meant to improve children’s rights in Iran in the past few years, including new discretion by judges to impose alternative punishments on juveniles convicted of capital crimes. In reality, the report said, these changes are attempts by the authorities to “whitewash their continuing violations of children’s rights and deflect criticism of their appalling record as one of the world’s last executioners of juvenile offenders.”
There is little doubt among rights groups that Iran has executed more people convicted of capital crimes committed as minors than any other country.
Said Boumedouha, Amnesty’s Middle East Deputy Director, said: “The report sheds light on Iran’s shameful disregard for the rights of children.
“Iran is one of the few countries that continues to execute juvenile offenders in blatant violation of the absolute legal prohibition on the use of the death penalty against people under the age of 18 years at the time of the crime.
“The report paints a deeply distressing picture of juvenile offenders languishing on death row, robbed of valuable years of their lives – often after being sentenced to death following unfair trials, including those based on forced confessions extracted through torture and other ill-treatment.”
Amnesty’s 110-page report intensifies pressure on Iran at a time when Tehran is working to rebuild relations with the West following last year’s landmark nuclear deal. The agreement came into force this month after Iran took steps to curb its nuclear program, leading to the lifting of crippling international sanctions.