Iran Executes 19-Year-Old Charged as Juvenile in Violation of Two International Treaties

Ignoring pleas by international organizations and in violation of two international treaties, Iran executed 19-year-old Amirhossein Pourjafar, who was sentenced to death as a juvenile, on January 4, 2018, in Tehran, the Center for Human Rights in Iran reports. Pourjafar was 16 when he was charged with raping and murdering a six-year-old girl.

According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is illegal to execute someone for crimes committed under the age of eighteen. Iran is party to both treaties but remains one among a handful of countries still putting juveniles to death.

“The efforts made by Amirhossein’s family and myself to convince the family of [the victim] Setayesh Farahbakhsh to pardon him did not bear results and the Judiciary Chief [Sadegh Larijani] ordered the death sentence to be carried out,” attorney Mojtaba Farahbakhsh told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on January 3, 2017.

Born in December 1999, Pourjafar was accused of raping and murdering the Afghan girl on April 10, 2016, in the outskirts of the city of Varamin south of Tehran. The victim’s body was disfigured with acid.

According to his lawyer, the teenager confessed and was given two death sentences for rape and murder by Branch 7 of the Tehran Criminal Court in December 2016. The verdict was upheld by Branch 32 of the Supreme Court on January 9, 2017. Farahbakhsh told CHRI that the official medical examiner concluded that Pourjafar was mature enough to understand the gravity of the crimes when he allegedly committed them.

The Iranian authorities must urgently stop the execution of a 17-year-old boy who was convicted of murder and rape, and commute his death sentence to imprisonment, said Amnesty International last October, but to no avail.

“There is no question that this was a horrific crime and the perpetrator should be held accountable. Amnesty International supports the demands for justice voiced by Setayesh’s bereaved family and the wider Afghan community in Iran, but executing a 17-year-old boy is not justice. The use of the death penalty against people convicted of crimes committed while they were under 18 is absolutely prohibited by international human rights law. If Iran goes ahead with the execution next week it will be another appalling breach of its international obligations,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

In its final verdict the court said that the death sentence against Amirhossein Pourjafar was issued after taking into account “societal expectations and public opinion”.

“The authorities’ rush to send a child to the gallows in order to placate public anger is short-sighted and misguided. The death penalty is a cruel, inhuman and irreversible punishment and there is no evidence that it has a greater deterrent effect than imprisonment. Using it as a means to exact revenge only compounds its brutal effects on society,” said Magdalena Mughrabi.

According to Article 91 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, “If mature people under eighteen-years-old do not realize the nature of the crime committed or its prohibition, or if there is uncertainty about their full mental development, according to their age” they can be spared the death penalty.

“When the Islamic Penal Code was ratified, there was widespread publicity over claims by judicial authorities that the execution of juvenile offenders would be stopped. However, we see these executions are on the rise,” human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh told CHRI in August 2017.

In reality, Amnesty International has recorded the execution of 85 juvenile offenders in Iran between 2005 and 2017, including four in 2015, two in 2016, and four until October 2017. The organization has also identified 92 individuals who are currently on death row for crimes committed when they were children.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to kill the prisoner. The death penalty is a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.