Iran is set to hang a 17-year-old boy on Thursday, the fifth execution of a juvenile offender this year, according to human rights groups that are urging the authorities to halt the execution and calling for the death sentence to be commuted to imprisonment, according to an Amnesty International press release.
“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, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.
Amirhossein Pourjafar is scheduled to be executed in a Tehran prison on Thursday after being convicted of the murder and rape of a seven-year-old girl, Setayesh Ghoreyshi, from Iran’s Afghan community.
Pourjafar was detained in April 2016 and sentenced to death six months later after a Tehran court said he had already reached “mental maturity” at the time of the crime, and understood the nature and consequences of his actions. The court cited opinions from Iran’s state forensic institute attesting to Pourjafar’s “mental sanity” as well as evidence they say pointed to his efforts to conceal the crime.
The court claimed its reasoning was in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Iran is a state party.
In September 2016, Branch 7 of Criminal Court No 1 in Tehran handed Pourjafar two death sentences, one for murder in accordance with the Islamic principle of “retribution-in-kind” and another for rape. He was also sentenced to 74 lashes for mutilating the corpse.
The Supreme Court upheld both death sentences in January. In its final verdict, the court said the death sentence against Pourjafar was issued after taking into account “societal expectations and public opinion”.
“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 Mughrabi.
The execution was scheduled two months after the head of Iran’s judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, repeated Iran’s untruthful claims that it does not execute minors. In reality, Amnesty has recorded the execution of 85 juvenile offenders in Iran during 2005-17, including four in 2015, two in 2016, and four so far this year.
Last year 567 people were executed in Iran, which occasionally also resorts to public hangings. Amnesty has also identified 92 individuals who are currently on death row for crimes committed when they were children.
The country is second only to China as the world’s leading executioner and is one of the very few states that sentence child offenders to capital punishment.