Iran: Hanging of teenager shows authorities’ brazen disregard for international law
Amnesty International has revealed that a teenager was executed in Iran after being convicted of the rape of another boy, the first confirmed execution of a juvenile offender in the country this year.
The organization, which has been carrying out extensive research into the situation of juvenile offenders on death row in Iran, found that Hassan Afshar, 19, was hanged in Arak’s Prison in Markazi Province on 18 July, after being convicted of “lavat-e be onf” (forced male to male anal intercourse) in early 2015. The execution went ahead even though the Office of the Head of the Judiciary had promised his family that they would review the case on 15 September 2016.
Iran has proved that its sickening enthusiasm for putting juveniles to death, in contravention of international law, knows no bounds
“Iran has proved that its sickening enthusiasm for putting juveniles to death, in contravention of international law, knows no bounds. Hassan Afshar was a 17-year-old high school student when he was arrested. He had no access to a lawyer and the judiciary rushed through the investigation and prosecution, convicting and sentencing him to death within two months of his arrest as though they could not execute him quickly enough,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International
“In a cruel stroke of irony, officials did not inform Hassan Afshar of his death sentence for around seven months while he was held in a juvenile detention facility because they did not want to cause him distress – and yet astonishingly were still prepared to execute him. With this execution, Iranian authorities have demonstrated once again their callous disregard for human rights.”
Just days after Hassan Afshar was executed, the authorities scheduled Alireza Tajiki, another youth who was under 18 at the time of his alleged offence, for execution. The implementation of his death sentence, which had been scheduled to take place on 3 August was, however, postponed yesterday following public pressure.
“While we welcome the stay of execution for Alireza Tajiki, his life has been saved for the moment because of public pressure and not because the Iranian authorities are seriously considering stopping the horrendous practice of executing juveniles. This is illustrated by the fact that just two weeks ago Hassan Afshar was hanged in anonymity – publicity should not make the difference between life and death,” said Magdalena Mughrabi.
For the 160 individuals who remain on death row in prisons across Iran for crimes allegedly committed when they were under 18, the news of yet another juvenile execution will come as a terrifying blow.
“Any one of these youths could be next in line for execution. The torment that Iran’s flawed juvenile justice system has inflicted on them will not end until the Iranian authorities commute their death sentences and amend Iran’s Penal Code to abolish the use of death penalty for all crimes committed under 18 years of age, as immediate first steps towards full abolition of this punishment,” said Magdalena Mughrabi.
Hassan Afshar was arrested in December 2014 after the authorities received a complaint accusing him and two other youths of forcing a teenage boy to have sexual intercourse with them. Hassan Afshar maintained that the sexual acts were consensual and that the complainant’s son had willingly engaged in same-sex sexual activities before.
While authorities must always investigate allegations of rape and, where sufficient admissible evidence is found, prosecute those responsible in fair trials, rape does not fall into the category of offences for which the death penalty can be imposed under international law. Furthermore, the existence of laws in Iran that criminalize consensual male to male sexual intercourse with the death penalty means that if the intercourse in this case had been deemed consensual, the teenager who accused Hassan Afshar of rape would himself have been sentenced to death. The criminalization of same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults violates international human rights law.
The Supreme Court initially overturned the sentence due to incomplete investigations but ultimately upheld it in March 2016.
Male individuals who engage in same-sex anal intercourse face different punishments under Iranian criminal law depending on whether they are the “active” or “passive” partners and whether their conduct is characterized as consensual or non-consensual. If the conduct is deemed consensual, the “passive” partner of same-sex anal conduct shall be sentenced to the death penalty. The “active” partner, however, is sentenced to death only if he is married, or if he is not a Muslim and the “passive” partner is a Muslim.
If the intercourse is deemed non-consensual, the “active” partner receives the death penalty but the “passive” partner is exempted from punishment and treated as a victim. This legal framework risks creating a situation where willing “recipients” of anal intercourse may feel compelled, when targeted by the authorities, to characterize their consensual sexual activity as rape in order to avoid the death penalty.
International law, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Iran is a state party, absolutely prohibits the use of death penalty for crimes committed when the defendant was below 18 years of age.
International law restricts the application of the death penalty to the “most serious crimes”, which refers to intentional killing.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty unconditionally, for all cases and under any circumstances.