UN human rights experts* today urged the Islamic Republic of Iran to halt the execution of a young Iranian man scheduled for 28 June, saying he was a child at the time of the crime, and was reportedly tortured to force a confession of guilt.
“We are deeply concerned for the life of Hossein Shahbazi, and particularly disturbed at reports indicating that the execution is planned to go ahead and that it may even be carried out earlier than scheduled. The execution of children and persons who committed a crime while under the age of 18 is clearly prohibited by international human rights law,” said the experts. At least two other child offenders are also at imminent risk of execution.
Hossein Shahbazi was 17 years old when he was arrested in 2018, meaning that he was a child at the time, as defined by the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, which Iran is a party to. In January 2020, he was sentenced to death for allegedly stabbing a classmate during a fight. Shahbazi was reportedly interrogated by police for 11 days without access to a lawyer or his family. During this time, he was reportedly tortured and forced to confess having committed the crime. As a result, there is currently a request for his re-trial pending before the Supreme Court.
In 2013, Iran amended its Penal Code to allow judges to provide alternative sentences for child offenders if there was uncertainty about their “mental development” at the time of the crime or if they had not realised the nature of the crime. Iran assured the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2016 that the amendment, Article 91, would apply systematically to all child offenders on death row.
“It is of serious concern that the judiciary repeatedly fails to take into account existing legal provisions in the law that can prevent the imposition of the death penalty on child offenders,” the experts said.
“We call on the Iranian authorities to honour their obligations under international law and immediately halt the execution of Hossein Shahbazi.
“The imposition of the death penalty in Iran contrasts with the current international trend of abolishing the death penalty and is contrary to its prohibition against child offenders. We therefore call on the authorities to undertake a reform of its Penal Code to abolish the death penalty against child offenders,” the experts added.
Iran remains one of several States which execute child offenders despite its strict prohibition under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Iran is a party.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child has urged Iran to end the execution of children and people who committed a crime while under the age of 18. However, at least four child offenders were executed in 2020, and to date more than 85 are reported to be on death row.