The Iranian Regime flogged and secretly executed two boys under the age of 18, displaying an utter disdain for international law and the rights of children. The Juveniles, identified as Mehdi Sohrabifar and Amin Sedaghat, two cousins, were executed on 25 April in Adelabad prison in Shiraz, southern Iran. They were arrested at aged 15 allegedly on rape charges and sentenced following an unfair trial.
“The Iranian authorities flogged these two boys in the final moments of their lives and then carried out their executions in secret in abhorrent violation of international law,” Amnesty International announced on April 29, 2019.
According to the International Human Rights Group, the teenagers were unaware that they had been sentenced to death until shortly before their executions and bore lash marks on their bodies indicating that they had been flogged before their deaths. Their families and lawyers were not informed about the executions in advance and were shocked to learn of the news.
“The Iranian authorities have once again proved that they are sickeningly prepared to put children to death, in flagrant disregard of international law. It seems they cruelly kept these two boys in the dark about their death sentences for two years, flogged them in the final moments of their lives and then carried out their executions in secret,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.
“The use of the death penalty against people who were under 18 at the time of the crime is strictly prohibited under international human rights law and is a flagrant assault on children’s rights. It is long overdue for Iranian parliamentarians to put an end to this harrowing situation by amending the penal code to ban the use of the death penalty against anyone who was under 18 at the time of the offence.”
Iran’s regime remains the top executioner of children in the world. As a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Iran is legally obliged to treat anyone under the age of 18 as a child and ensure that they are never subjected to the death penalty or life imprisonment.
Following their arrest, Mehdi Sohrabifar and Amin Sedaghat aged 15 at the time, were held for two months in a police detention centre, where they said they were beaten. The legal proceedings leading to conviction and sentencing were unfair and flagrantly violated the principles of juvenile justice. They also had no access to a lawyer during the investigation stage.
The two boys had been held in a juvenile correction center in Shiraz since 2017. On 24 April, they were transferred to Adelabad prison, apparently without knowing the reason. The same day, their families were granted a visit with them, but they were not told that it was in preparation for their execution.
The next day, on 25 April, the families suddenly received a call from Iran’s Legal Medicine Organization, a state forensic institute, informing them of the executions and asking them to collect the bodies.
The practice of subjecting children to police questioning in the absence of a guardian or lawyer violates the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which provides that children in conflict with the law must be guaranteed prompt legal assistance.
Amnesty International has recorded the execution of 97 juvenile offenders in Iran between 1990 and 2018. All individuals were under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged crime. More than 90 others remain at risk of execution.
The fact that Mehdi Sohrabifar and Amin Sedaghat’s executions were not made public before their cases were made to known to Amnesty International reinforces the organization’s concern that the real number of executions of juvenile offenders in the country is actually higher than the figure recorded. Juvenile offenders currently on death row are also at risk of being executed in secret if their cases are not brought to the attention of human rights organizations for public campaigning and advocacy.
Many have spent prolonged periods on death row – in some cases more than a decade. Some have had their executions scheduled and postponed repeatedly, adding to their torment. Such conditions of uncertainty causing severe anguish and mental distress amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
Under international law, the use of the death penalty must be restricted to the most serious crimes involving intentional killings.
The use of death penalty must be stopped 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 kill the prisoner. The death penalty is a violation of the right to life and is considered the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, Amnesty said.
The fact is that the appalling human rights situation in Iran continues because the officials responsible for gross human rights abuses have never been held accountable despite the fact that the regime’s human rights record has been condemned by the U.N. General Assembly every year since 1980.
The most appalling example is the 1988 Massacre of Political Prisoners in Iran whose perpetrators have not yet been brought to justice. In 1988, more than 30,000 political prisoners were massacred in a matter of a few months following a written decree by Iran’s then Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. A “Death Committee” whose members were appointed by Khomeini oversaw and approved all the death sentences after trials that lasted only a few minutes. The perpetrators of this heinous crime still hold key positions in the current government, including ministers, and enjoy impunity.