New UN Report on Iran Notes Decline in Executions, Ongoing Executions of Child Offenders
The report of the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran has now been made available on the documentation webpage of the 40th session of the Human Rights Council.
The present report, submitted pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 37/30, comprises two parts. In the first part, the Special Rapporteur Javaid Rehman describes how the protests in the Islamic Republic of Iran reflect long-standing grievances related to human rights. An amendment to the drug trafficking law has led to a decline in executions. Nevertheless, increasing economic challenges have intensified grievances, which may be exacerbated following the reimposition of unilateral sanctions. Discontent has been expressed through disparate protests by different groups across the country. The Government has introduced some measures aimed at addressing economic challenges, but the arrests of lawyers, human rights defenders and labour activists signal an increasingly severe State response.
In the second part, the Special Rapporteur describes how the execution of child offenders in the Islamic Republic of Iran has continued over decades in violation of the country’s international human rights obligations. Girls can be sentenced to death as young as 9 and boys as young as 15. Despite amendments to the Penal Code and practical efforts aimed at reducing the executions, at least 33 child offenders have been executed since 2013. The Special Rapporteur makes a number of targeted recommendations to the Parliament and the judiciary with a view to ending such executions.
The Special Rapporteur recommends that Parliament:
(a) Urgently amend legislation to prohibit the execution of persons who committed a hudud or qisas crime while below the age of 18 years and as such are children. Urgently amend the legislation to commute all existing sentences for child offenders on death row;
(b) Withdraw the general reservation to the Convention on the Rights of the Child given that such a general reservation is not compatible with the object and purpose of the Convention;
(c) Amend the Penal Code to increase the age of criminal responsibility for qisas and hudud crimes to 18 years for all children, and ensure that all children are treated equally and without discrimination within the criminal justice system.
The Special Rapporteur recommends that the judiciary:
(a) Urgently halt the planned execution of all child offenders, and commute the death sentences imposed on the basis of qisas and hudud crimes for all child offenders;
(b) Pending legislative review, urgently issue a circular which requires all judges not to sentence children to death on the basis of qisas or hudud crimes, and which requires presiding judges to order retrials for all child offenders on death row without recourse to the death penalty.
Pending implementation of the aforementioned recommendations, and without prejudice to the binding obligation enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to not sentence children to death and to not execute child offenders, the Special Rapporteur recommends that the judiciary:
(a) Require courts to comprehensively assess mental development in all cases in line with article 91 of the Penal Code, and to always seek expert advice from the relevant child development, psychology, psychiatry, and social service fields as well as from the Iranian Legal Medicine Organization, with a view to ensuring that the child is exempted from the death penalty;
(b) Ensure that any article 91 assessment is conducted on the prima facie basis that there is uncertainty about the mental development of the child, and as such a death sentence cannot be imposed. Ensure that the burden of proof is always on the prosecution to establish complete certainty about the full mental development of the child, in line with article 91. Furthermore, ensure that the child is afforded the benefit of the doubt if the assessment is not undertaken immediately after the crime;
(c) Undertake a prompt, effective and transparent review of all child offenders on death row and ensure that they are afforded legal representation and financial and other needed support to exercise their right to a retrial as provided for by article 91 of the Penal Code;
(d) Ensure that children who have been detained or arrested are interviewed only in the presence of their chosen lawyer, are immediately granted legal aid if needed, and are granted access to a family member of their choice at all times regardless of the offence they are accused of;
(e) When assessing the quality and veracity of testimony or confession offered by the child, ensure that the judge considers all circumstances of interrogation, especially the age of the child as well as the length of detention and interrogation and the presence of legal or other representatives and parents during questioning;
(f) Require that all those who deal with children in the criminal justice system, especially judges, prosecutors, medical examiners, police interrogators and other law enforcement professionals, undergo specialist, ongoing and systematic training on the rights of the child. Such training should inform participants about how to take into account the child’s physical, psychological, mental and social development in a manner consistent with the obligations of the Islamic Republic of Iran under international human rights law;
(g) Establish specialist and separate child courts to consider cases involving children, for all crimes including qisas and hudud crimes, in the first instance and on appeal, in all provinces. Ensure that the judges who preside over such courts, and the prosecutors who are able to bring cases before such courts, have a minimum level of professional qualifications and expert training in child sociology, child psychology and behavioural sciences;
(h) Ensure that the court takes into account the circumstances in which the child is living and the conditions in which any offence has allegedly been committed, including through the preparation, introduction and full consideration of pre-sentence reports. Ensure that the court is informed about all relevant facts about the child, such as social and family background, wealth, education and circumstances of marriage. Ensure that adequate social services capacity has been established to be able to provide such reports and is mandated to provide such advice;
(i) Ensure that detention pending trial is only used as a measure of last resort and for the shortest possible period of time for children accused of any crime, including qisas and hudud crimes;
(j) Provide the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Rapporteur with a list of all child offenders on death row.
Pending abolition of the death penalty for child offenders, the Special Rapporteur recommends that the Iranian Legal Medicine Organization, and other expert bodies called upon to conduct article 91 assessments:
(a) Conduct assessments that provide a scientific, evidence-based assessment as to whether there is total certainty about the mental development of the child offender at the time of the offence in line with article 91 of the Penal Code. Ensure that such an assessment reflects the findings of assessments by experts from all relevant fields, including the relevant child development, psychology, psychiatry, and social service fields;
(b) Afford the child offender the benefit of the doubt and deliver a finding of uncertainty when absolute certainty cannot be scientifically established, including if the assessment is not conducted immediately after the alleged offence. Establish and publish a methodology to conduct the assessment.
Access the full report here.