Iran moves to execute man for crime committed when he was 17

The Iranian authorities are planning to execute a man alleged to have killed when he was only 17 on Monday. Amnesty International has warned that the execution, in Mashhad, north-eastern Iran, of Afghan national Abbas Hosseini must be stopped.

Amnesty International condemned the Iranian authorities’ moves to once more violate its international obligations by setting a renewed date for the execution of a juvenile offender.

“It is sickening that Iran continues to flout international law by arranging to kill those who committed crimes as children,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East Deputy Programme Director at Amnesty International. “We appeal to the Head of the Judiciary to issue, with immediate effect, an order to stay this execution and to ensure that Abbas Hosseini’s death sentence is overturned.”

Abbas Hosseini’s June 2004 death sentence imposed by Branch 43 of the General Court in Mashhad for the murder of a man who had tried to rape him in July 2003 was upheld by Branch 41 of the Supreme Court on 30 September 2004. He claimed before the court to have committed the crime “in a moment of insanity”, but this was rejected.  

He was due to be executed on 1 May 2005, but at the last minute was granted a one-week stay of execution to give the victim’s family another opportunity to accept payment of diyeh (blood money).

At the same time, the Head of the Judiciary ordered the local judiciary in Mashhad not to proceed with the execution and Abbas Hosseini’s case was sent for review. On 27 April 2008, Branch 13 of the Supreme Court sent the case for retrial on account of Abbas Hosseini’s age at the time of the crime.

Nonetheless, he was sentenced to death once again on 5 August 2008 by Branch 103 of the General Juvenile Court in Mashhad. This sentence was upheld on 29 December 2008 by Branch 33 of the Supreme Court and has been given final approval by the Head of the Judiciary, paving the way for the scheduling of his execution.

The victim’s family are refusing to pardon him in exchange for monetary compensation in the form of diyeh.

“Not only has Abbas Hosseini been sentenced to death for a crime committed when he was a child,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui. “But the protracted judicial uncertainty surrounding the review and retrial of his case, and the halting at the last minute of his scheduled execution which has led to him languishing on death row in prison since 2004, compounds his suffering.”

Since 1990, at least 41 alleged juvenile offenders have been executed in Iran and over 140 are known to remain on death row. At least three have been executed so far in 2009, in breach of Iran’s international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child which unequivocally ban the execution of juvenile offenders.