Dozens tried as juveniles in Iran risk execution

Dozens of people arrested in Iran for crimes committed before they turned 18 remain at risk of the death penalty, despite reforms.

Many of them have spent years on death row, according to Amnesty International.

The London-based group says Iran executed 73 juvenile offenders between 2005 and 2015, including four last year.

Amnesty’s 110-page report intensifies pressure at a time when Tehran is rebuilding relations with the West, following last year’s landmark nuclear deal.

The agreement came into force this month, after Iran curbed its nuclear programme. 

Crippling international sanctions were lifted, as a result.

On Monday, Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, arrived in Rome at the start of the first European trip by an Iranian president in two decades.

The visit, which will also include stops at the Vatican and France, is expected to lead to a raft of business and trade deals.

Iran is one of the world’s largest users of the death penalty, ranking second behind China in 2014, according to the most recent figures from Amnesty. 

Most executions in Iran are for drug smuggling.

The country straddles a major narcotics trafficking route that links opium-producing fields in Afghanistan to Europe.

Amnesty’s researchers identified the names and locations of 49 juvenile offenders who face the death penalty, though the group notes that actual numbers could be higher. 

A 2014 UN report put the number of juvenile offenders at risk of execution at 160.

The majority of the 73 juvenile offenders put to death over the past decade were convicted of murder.

Others were executed for crimes including rape, drugs, and national security offences, such as “enmity against God.”

 The group noted that reforms introduced in 2013 give judges more discretion to take into account juvenile offenders’ mental maturity and to potentially impose less harsh punishments, and that the Supreme Court has since said juvenile offenders facing execution could have their cases retried.

Additional reforms, introduced last year, require that cases involving juveniles must be heard in special juvenile courts.

Still, Amnesty says more must be done.

“Despite some juvenile justice reforms, Iran continues to lag behind the rest of the world, maintaining laws that permit girls as young as nine, and boys as young as 15, to be sentenced to death,” Amnesty said.


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