Iran: Youth at risk of hanging amid disturbing rise in juvenile executions
The Iranian authorities must halt the execution of a young man who was still a child at the time of his alleged crime, and reverse a disturbing rise in the execution of juvenile offenders which has resulted in at least eight individuals being put to death in the first half of 2014, for crimes allegedly committed when they were below the age of 18, Amnesty International urged today.
Rasoul Holoumi, now 22, was sentenced to death in October 2010 for the alleged killing of a boy during a group-fight in 2009, when he was 17 years old. The execution could be carried out at any time at the request of the victim’s family, under the Islamic law principle of qesas (retribution-in-kind).
“It is cruel and inhumane to hang any person but it is particularly reprehensible for Iran to do so when the person was a child at the time of the alleged crime, and the execution takes place after a flawed investigation process that violates fair trial standards,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.
Iran is among a handful of countries that still execute juvenile offenders. Amnesty International has recorded at least eight juvenile executions in the first half of 2014 while it recorded none in the first half of 2013. The organization received reports of at least 11 juvenile executions for the whole of 2013.
“The execution of Rasoul Holoumi will be a deplorable addition to Iran’s grim tally of executions. Whatever argument the authorities might use, this is a flagrant violation of international law. Rasoul Holoumi was a child at the time of his alleged offence and his death sentence must be quashed,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.
Branch 17 of the Criminal Court in Iran’s southern Khuzestan Province sentenced Rasoul Holoumi to death in October 2010 for murder. The conviction was based on allegations that, during a fight involving multiple people in September 2009, he had thrown a hard object at Nasim Nouri Maleki, resulting in fatal head injuries. The allegations appear to have been made by several of the people who were themselves involved in the fight.
Rasoul Holoumi was not given access to a lawyer during the investigation nor was he given adequate time and resources to prepare and defend himself before and during trial. Although he admitted to the charges when he was first summoned by the police, he retracted this admission after several weeks, making statements which raised doubts about the events leading to the victim’s death – or whether he was even there at the time.
On 30 September 2009, Rasoul Holoumi said that he had been at home when the fight broke out and had only confessed to the crime because he felt sorry for another child who had confided to him that he had hit Nasim Nouri Maleki during the fight. On 2 October 2009, he said that he had picked up and thrown a hard object when he saw some of the people involved in the fight coming towards him, but the blow was not intentional. On 5 October 2009, he denied that he had ever thrown the hard object. Additional doubts have been raised by reports that there was a history of hostility between the family of Rasoul Holoumi and the principal witness in the case who testified against him.
In spite of all this, Iran’s Supreme Court upheld Rasoul Holoumi’s death sentence in 2010 without explaining its reasoning.
The Iranian authorities were due to execute him on 4 May this year, but stopped it after the victim’s family agreed to forgo their request for retribution if Rasoul Holoumi’s family paid them 3.5 billion Rials (equivalent to US$135,323) as diyah (blood money) and transferred the deeds of their house and farm to them. The diyah amount of 3.5 billion Rials appears to be beyond his family’s means, leaving the 22 year old man vulnerable to imminent execution at any time.
Sentences of qesas are not open to pardon or amnesty by the Supreme Leader in breach of international law.
Iran continues to be one of the world’s most prolific executing states. According to Amnesty International’s Death Sentences and Executions 2013 report, Iranian officials acknowledged the execution of at least 369 people in 2013, while reliable sources reported at least 335 additional executions. Reports indicate that at least 11 of those executed may have been under the age of 18 at the time of their alleged crimes.
As of 26 June 2014, 171 executions this year have been acknowledged by the authorities or state-sanctioned media and at least 233 additional executions have been reported by other reliable sources.
The execution of people for crimes committed when they were under 18 is strictly prohibited under Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, both of which Iran has ratified.
Under Article 6(4) of the ICCPR, anyone sentenced to death shall have the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence.