Experts urge Iran to halt imminent execution of juvenile offender

The United Nations

Iran must halt the looming execution of juvenile offender Hossein Shahbazi, four experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council said on Thursday.

Mr. Shahbazi, now 20, was 17 when he was arrested for fatally stabbing a classmate during a fight involving four people.

He was scheduled to be executed on 5 January, which was temporarily halted.

Uphold international law

The experts said the court had relied in part on confessions reportedly obtained under torture and ill treatment when Mr. Shahbazi was interrogated by police for 11 days.

During this time, he was also denied access to a lawyer and his family.

“We urge the Iranian authorities to immediately and permanently halt the execution of Hossein Shahbazi and annul his death sentence, in line with international human rights law,” the experts said in a statement.

They added that Mr. Shahbazi’s execution had been scheduled to take place four times, causing irreversible psychological pain and suffering to him and his family.

The UN experts had previously raised concerns about the death sentence and imminent execution with the Iranian authorities on 7 June 2021 and again the following month.

The Government responded that a stay of execution had been granted to facilitate reconciliation for pardon.

Moratorium

“We underline again that reconciliation efforts do not replace the Government’s obligation to prohibit such executions,” the experts said.

“International law unequivocally forbids the imposition of the death penalty on persons below 18 years of age. Iran must observe its international obligations by imposing de jure and de facto moratorium (this should really be moratoria, but since it’s a direct quote, they can take the grammatical rap) on the execution of juvenile offenders once and for all.”

More than 85 juvenile offenders are currently on death row in Iran, according to the experts.

Last November, the UN human rights office, OHCHR, condemned the execution of another juvenile offender, Arman Abdolali, 25, who was accused of murder when he was 17.

OHCHR also deplored that Mr. Abdolali had been transferred to solitary confinement six times ahead of his scheduled execution, which was postponed each time before he was hanged on 24 November 2021. 

Role of UN experts

The experts who issued the statement are Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur on human rights situation in Iran; Mikiko Otani, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child; Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

They receive their mandates from the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, and are neither UN staff nor are they paid by the Organization.

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