Young Man Sentenced As Juvenile Executed in Iran Despite Case Ambiguities
Abolfazl Chezani Sharahi, 19, was hanged in Iran’s Central Prison in the city of Qom on June 27, 2018, despite serious concerns about how his case was handled, a source with knowledge about his case told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
Sharahi was arrested in December 2013 at the age of 14 for allegedly stabbing his friend, who died in the hospital 10 days later.
“Other than the fact that he was just a child, the issue here is that Abolfazl’s friend could have died due to the lack of medical attention,” said the source, who asked not to be identified due to the sensitivities in Iran around speaking to media organizations about controversial domestic policies.
The source also told CHRI during an interview on July 2 that Sharahi’s maturity was assessed by a medical examiner three years after the crime took place and that Sharahi was not mature enough at that time to realize the gravity of his actions.
Added the source: “When Abolfazl was taken to the medical examiner to determine his maturity, he was close to 18-years-old and three years had passed since the crime took place. The medical examiner asked him some questions about the act of murder, about death and guilt and about when he had reached sexual maturity. Then he ruled that three years earlier, Abolfazl was mentally mature.”
According to Article 91 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, “If mature people under 18-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.
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 a party to both treaties but remains one among a handful of countries still putting juveniles to death.
The source who spoke to CHRI said a number of Iranian NGOs, including the Imam Ali Society, had been working on overturning Sharahi’s death sentence by providing him with a lawyer and attempting to convince the victim’s family to pardon him, which is a legal option in Iran.
“There was some progress but the judiciary’s inclination to execute juveniles did him in,” the source said.
Iran is one of the few countries in the world where juvenile offenders continue to be executed. Sharahi’s execution was the fourth carried out against a juvenile offender in the country since January 2018. Dozens of others of people who were sentenced as juveniles remain on death row.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein condemned the continued implementation of the death penalty against juvenile offenders in Iran, stressing that the execution of juvenile offenders is strictly prohibited by international law under all circumstances, regardless of the nature of the crime alleged to have been committed.
“I am deeply disturbed that Iran continues to implement the death penalty against juvenile offenders, with some 85 others reportedly on death row,” Zeid said on in a statement on June 28.
“We understand that the execution of at least one more juvenile offender, Mohammad Kalhori, is imminent and urge the authorities not to carry it out, but instead to commute the sentences of all juvenile offenders on death row,” he added.