Iran: Stop execution of young man arrested at 16 and forced to “confess” under torture
Responding to the Iranian authorities’ plans to execute a 30-year-old man, Mohammad Hassan Rezaiee, for a crime that took place when he was 16 years old and following a conviction based on “confessions” extracted under torture, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, Diana Eltahawy, said:
“After more than 12 years on death row, Mohammad Hassan Rezaiee was transferred to solitary confinement in Lakan Prison in Rasht on Thursday, and his family was told that his execution would be carried out ‘in a week’. The Iranian authorities are yet again waging an abhorrent assault on children’s rights and making an absolute mockery of juvenile justice.
“In 2007, when Mohammad Hassan Rezaiee was 16 years old, he was arrested in connection with the fatal stabbing of a man in a group fight. His trial was grossly unfair. Despite his young age, the authorities held him in prolonged solitary confinement, without access to his family and lawyer. They repeatedly tortured him to ‘confess’, including by beating him with sticks, kicking and punching him, and whipping him with pipe hoses. In 2008, the trial court relied on his forced ‘confessions’ to convict and sentence him to death — even though he retracted his ‘confessions’ at trial and said that they were given under torture.
“Imposing the death penalty on someone who was a child at the time of the crime is a serious violation of international human rights law, which absolutely prohibits the use of the death penalty for crimes committed by children. The injustice is further compounded by the Iranian authorities’ determination to proceed with the execution despite his grossly unfair trial and the absence of any investigation into Mohammad Hassan Rezaiee’s allegations of torture and other ill-treatment.
“We call on the Iranian authorities to immediately halt Mohammad Hassan Rezaiee’s execution, quash his conviction and sentence, and grant him a fair retrial conducted in full compliance with the rules of juvenile justice and without resorting to the death penalty.”
Mohammad Hassan Rezaiee was sentenced to death by a criminal court in Gilan province on 21 October 2008. His conviction relied on “confessions” that he and his court-appointed lawyer said in court were obtained through torture while he was held by the Investigation Unit of Iran’s Police (agahi) in Bandar-e Anzali, Gilan province. Iran’s Supreme Court later upheld the conviction and death sentence. Since then, Mohammad Hassan Rezaiee and his family have not had the financial means to hire a lawyer to formally submit a retrial request on his behalf based on Article 91 of the 2013 Penal Code, which allows for an alternative punishment to the death penalty if a court determines the juvenile defendant did not comprehend the nature or consequences of the crime, or if their “mental growth and maturity” at the time of the crime were in doubt. Amnesty International understands that Mohammad Hassan Rezaiee’s father wrote to the Iranian authorities in August 2019 requesting a retrial. In early 2020, the family was told that the case had been referred to Branch 27 of the Supreme Court for consideration, but they have not received any updates on the status of their request.
Iran is one of the last countries in the world that continues to use the death penalty for crimes committed by people under the age of 18, in violation of its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Iranian authorities executed two other young men arrested as children, Shayan Saeedpour and Majid Esmailzadeh, in April 2020. This followed the 2019 executions of at least six 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, Alireza Khodaiee, Mehdi Chanani and Touraj Aziz (Azizdeh) Ghassemi. Amnesty International is concerned that there are at least 90 juvenile offenders on death row in Iran.
Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the Iranian authorities to amend Article 91 of the 2013 Islamic Penal Code to abolish the death penalty for crimes committed by people under the age of 18.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to execute the prisoner. The death penalty is a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.