A top Judiciary official in Iran has defended the death penalty for minors, saying it is neither illegal nor against any of Iran’s international commitments.
The Secretary of Iran's High Council for Human Rights, Kazem Gharibabadi, made the remarks in reaction to a recent human rights resolution passed by United Nations General Assembly condemning the "alarmingly frequent" use of capital punishment, including against juvenile offenders, torture, and arbitrary arrests in Iran.
Gharibabadi, a former ambassador to international organizations in Vienna, said the executions of juveniles do not violate human rights, underlining that there is no compulsory international law prohibiting the practice.
Although no official data about the number of Iranian children in death row is publicly available, the UN has criticized Iran as one of the most prolific executioner of juveniles in the world, with some reports putting the numbers at about 100 a year on average.
Underage prisoners in an Iranian jail.
“There are currently over 85 juvenile offenders on death row in Iran, sentenced to death following processes that significantly violate international human rights law. The majority of those sentenced to death are from marginalized groups or are individuals who themselves have been victims of abuse”, read part of a November statement by the Office of the High Commissioner for UN Human Rights.
UN human rights experts issued the statement to condemn the execution of Arman Abdolali, who was convicted for an alleged murder committed when he was 17. Arman was executed at dawn on November 24 after being transferred to solitary confinement the previous evening.
While the death penalty is not officially banned by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) or virtually any other universal treaty, there are several instruments in force to push states to abolish capital punishment, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington-based non-profit organization that focuses on disseminating studies and reports on the capital punishment.
The ICCPR -- one of the three international treaties collectively referred to as the International Bill of Human Rights — mandates that the death penalty “shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age.”
In most countries a minor is defined as a person under the age of majority – generally 18 -- which legally demarcates childhood from adulthood. Adulthood in the Islamic law (or Sharia) is the time when someone reaches puberty or maturity. According to Sharia, people are considered innocent before that and don’t have full responsibility and Islamic law is not applied to them. However, the concept of minor is not clearly defined and differs based on the interpretation of different Islamic jurists.