Iran: Scrap death sentence for juvenile offender to prove UN review more than a ‘PR stunt’

The Iranian authorities must prove that their participation at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva is more than a mere PR exercise, by halting any plans to execute an alleged juvenile offender and ordering a judicial review of his case, said Amnesty International.

The execution of Saman Naseem, a member of Iran’s Kurdish minority, following a grossly unfair trial that relied on ‘confessions’ extracted under torture, was scheduled to take place one month before the UN Human Rights Council session on 19 March. The execution was not carried out then and the authorities have refused to officially disclose his fate and whereabouts since.

We fear the Iranian authorities may have postponed Saman Naseem’s execution merely to avoid criticism and condemnation at the UN Human Rights Council session, leaving him at even graver risk of execution once the review ends.
Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International

“We fear the Iranian authorities may have postponed Saman Naseem’s execution merely to avoid criticism and condemnation at the UN Human Rights Council session, leaving him at even graver risk of execution once the review ends,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

“The Iranian authorities must demonstrate that they are serious about their commitments to human rights and that they see their participation in the UN review as more than a mere PR exercise. They should be under no illusion that delaying Saman Naseem’s execution or carrying it out in secret would go unnoticed.”

Saman Naseem was sentenced to death in April 2013 in Mahabad, West Azerbaijan Province, in connection with his alleged membership of a Kurdish armed opposition group and taking part in armed activities against the Revolutionary Guard. He was 17 at the time of the alleged crimes.

During its first Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN Human rights Council in 2010 Iran accepted a recommendation to “consider the abolition of juvenile executions” which are explicitly prohibited under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

However, the Iranian authorities have continued to carry out executions of juvenile offenders. They have also now rejected recommendations made during the country’s second UPR calling on them to halt the implementation of death sentences for those under the age of 18 at the time of their alleged crimes.

“Sentencing Saman Naseem to death contravenes Iran’s international legal obligations which strictly prohibit executions of juvenile offenders,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

“The scheduling of his execution last month provoked an international outcry by people across the world who recognize that it is unlawful and plain wrong to put to death a juvenile offender.”

Saman Naseem was transferred from the Oroumieh Prison, western Iran, to an unknown location on 18 February, the day before his scheduled execution. A month of uncertainty followed for his family, who did not know whether he was alive or dead, until the authorities this week told Saman Naseem’s lawyer that the death sentence had not been carried out.

However, officials have refused to disclose Saman Naseem’s whereabouts. His family members have not been permitted any visits or phone calls. He is being held in conditions amounting to enforced disappearance which is a crime under international law.

“It is utter cruelty on the part of the Iranian authorities to have left Saman Naseem’s family completely in the dark. Playing with the family’s emotions in such a manner is inhuman and degrading, and is in itself a human rights violation,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

UN Human Rights Council session

Iran has submitted a list of recommendations it has fully or partially accepted or rejected to the UN based on its review session in October 2014. At the session on 19 March at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva this outcome will be formally adopted.

Out of 291 human rights recommendations, Iran has fully accepted 130, partially accepted 59, and rejected 102.

Among those rejected were recommendations calling on Iran to ratify key human rights treaties to protect women’s rights, children’s rights, end torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and protect individuals from enforced disappearances.

The vast majority of the recommendations Iran has accepted are general or vaguely worded, and in many case their acceptance amounts to no more than promises to “consider” or “continue efforts” to make changes rather than concrete pledges to implement them.

For example, Iran agreed to “continue to take measures to strengthen mechanisms for the protection of the rights of women and children”. However, it rejected recommendations to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) or to reconsider its vague and sweeping reservation to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, excluding any of its provisions that are “incompatible with Islamic laws”.

By rejecting any recommendation that requires them to take concrete action, the Iranian authorities simply make their concessions to human rights seem like empty gestures. The hollow promises do not mask the true reality that they are not committed to true human rights reform.
Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui

“By rejecting any recommendation that requires them to take concrete action, the Iranian authorities simply make their concessions to human rights seem like empty gestures,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

“The hollow promises do not mask the true reality that they are not committed to true human rights reform.”