UN Urges Iran to Cease Execution of Minors

The new High Commissioner for Human Rights, the South African Jurist Navi Pillay, took office on Monday. The Office of the Commissioner does not have much inherent power — or even much of a budget — but the job does come with a pretty loud megaphone. And yesterday, the new commissioner used it for the first time to denounce the execution of juvenile offenders in Iran. From the UN News Center:

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has urged Iran not to impose the death penalty on juvenile offenders, following reports that two minors were recently put to death, in violation of the country’s obligations under international law.

Reza Hedjazi is believed to have been executed on 19 August and Behnam Zaare on 26 August. They are reported to have been 15 and 16, respectively, when they committed their crimes.

“These executions appear to be in clear violation of international law which contains an absolute prohibition of the death penalty for juvenile offenders,” OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville told a news conference in Geneva.

Mr. Colville pointed out that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, both of which Iran has ratified, prohibit the death penalty for crimes committed by people below the age of 18.

OHCHR is also concerned that two other juvenile offenders, Mohammad Fadaaee and Amir Amrollahi, also face an imminent risk of execution.

Human Rights Watch has also been monitoring the situation.

Za[a]re is the sixth juvenile offender Iran has executed this year. No other country is known to have executed a juvenile offender in 2008. Since January 2005, Iran has executed at least 26 juvenile offenders. During the same period, only four other countries – Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, and Pakistan – are known to have executed any juvenile offenders, with a combined total of six such executions in the four countries.

“Iran leads the world in executing juvenile offenders” said Clarisa Bencomo, researcher on children’s rights in the Middle East at Human Rights Watch. “Everywhere else, countries are moving to end this abhorrent practice, but in Iran the numbers of death sentences seem to be increasing.”

For it’s part, the United States Supreme Court abolished the execution of juvenile offenders back in March 2005.