Iran: Execution of young man ‘vengeful and cruel’

The execution of Shayan Saeedpour today in Iran for a crime committed as a child is further proof of the authorities’ total disregard for the right to life, said Amnesty International.

Iranian officials executed Shayan Saeedpour, 21, this morning in the central prison in Saqez, Kurdistan province. A criminal court in Kurdistan province had sentenced him to death in October 2018 after convicting him of murder. The conviction was in connection with the fatal stabbing of a man during a fight in August 2015. Shayan Saeedpour was 17 years old at the time.

Shayan Saeedpour’s execution was vengeful and cruel
Diana Eltahawy

“Shayan Saeedpour’s execution was vengeful and cruel,” said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“The use of the death penalty against Shayan - a child with a long history of mental illness - was strictly prohibited. By proceeding with his execution despite international opposition, the Iranian authorities have yet again made a mockery of juvenile justice.

“The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, and its use against people who were below the age of 18 at the time of the crime is banned under international law. Our annual Death Penalty report shows that Iran is one of a small minority of countries in the world that still use the death penalty against people in that category. This is abhorrent and must stop.”

Amnesty International today published its annual Death Penalty report, highlighting that although there had been a fall in the total number of global executions, Iran remained the world’s second most prolific executioner after China.

Escape from prison and retaliatory execution

Shayan Saeedpour was among dozens of prisoners who had escaped from the central prison in Saqez in late March amid protests and riots over the authorities’ failure to adequately address fears over the spread of coronavirus in Iran's prisons. He was re-arrested around 3 April. Amnesty International believes his execution may have been an act of retaliation by the local prosecution authorities, intended to deter other prisoners from attempting similar escape plans.

According to information gathered by Amnesty International, the prosecutor general of Saqez had repeatedly pushed for the execution in recent days, and even urged the family of the deceased not to grant him pardon. Under Iranian law, the family of the murder victim has the right to grant pardon to the individual sentenced to death in exchange for “blood money”. The implementation of sentences falls under the office of the prosecution.

Background

Shayan Saeedpour had a history of mental illness and had been diagnosed with impulse control disorder. Amnesty International understands that, despite his young age, the Legal Medicine Organization of Iran had stated in a submission to the trial court that Shayan Saeedpour had attained “mental maturity” at the time of the crime and “could distinguish between right and wrong”.

Shayan Saeedpour’s family and lawyer disputed the assessment, saying that he had not intellectually matured at the time of the crime. Shayan Saeedpour’s lawyer had also raised concerns that the trial court had not taken into account his diagnosis with impulse control disorder.

Juvenile offenders on death row

Iran is one of the last counties in the world that continues to use the death penalty against people who were under 18 years of age at the time of the crime. In 2019, Amnesty International recorded the execution of at least four individuals in Iran who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime. Their names were Amin Sedaghat, Mehdi Sohrabifar, Amir Ali Shadabi and Touraj Aziz (Azizdeh) Ghassemi.

Amnesty International is concerned that there are at least 90 juvenile offenders on death row in Iran. The organisation opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception because it violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.