Iran: Imminent risk of execution of juvenile offenders in Iran

Press release
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Open Letter to the European Union High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

Paris, 22 July 2014

Dear Ms Ashton,

FIDH wishes to bring to your attention the cases of Mr. Rasoul Holoumi, aged 22, and Ms. Razieh Ebrahimi, aged 21, both sentenced to death in 2010 for crimes committed when they were minors. These two young people are at risk of imminent execution, in contradiction with international law and human rights principles.

In October 2010, Rasoul Holoumi was sentenced to death by the 17th Chamber of the Criminal Court of the province of Khuzestan for having mortally wounded a young boy during a fight in 2009. Rasoul Holoumi was 17 years old at the time of the event. His execution, originally scheduled for 7 May 2014, was suspended after the family of the victim agreed to renounce their demand for retribution by execution if the family of Rasoul Holoumi paid them diya (blood money). Holoumi’s family has not been able to raise the money demanded (which is more than double the minimum amount of diya recommended by the judicial system), thus he again faces imminent execution.

Similarly, Ms. Razieh Ebrahimi, forcibly married at the age of 14 and a mother by age 15, was sentenced to death in 2010 by the 17th Chamber of the Criminal Court in Ahvaz for the murder of her husband the same year, when she was 17 years old. The execution of Razieh Ebrahimi was scheduled to take place several months ago, but was suspended by the judge supervising the execution when he learned that she was a minor at the time of the crime. Her lawyer then filed a request for retrial, but Branch 35 of the Supreme Court declined to investigate the case on the grounds that another branch had previously examined it. Her lawyer has written to head of the Judiciary asking him to order a retrial, but until the request is granted Ebrahimi again faces imminent execution.

The death sentences of Rasoul Holoumi and Razieh Ebrahimi have already been submitted to the penal enforcement bureau, which means that they can be executed at any moment at the request of victims’ families. According to statements made by the authorities, it seems likely that the two death sentences will be carried out after the end of Ramadan on 28 July.

The cases of Rasoul Holoumi and Razieh Ebrahimi are not unique within Iran. A high degree of secrecy on the part of the government makes it difficult to know the exact number and details of all death row inmates, but various human rights organizations assert that there are over one hundred people awaiting execution for crimes committed when they were minors. Last year FIDH and its member organization LDDHI published a report entitled Death Penalty in Iran: A State Terror Policy, which noted that from 2008 to 2013, at least 27 juveniles had been executed in Iran. Thus far in 2014, at least eight such executions have already been reported. The numbers are likely even greater due to secret executions, which remain commonplace. In addition to the execution of minors, FIDH is concerned about the equally unlawful yet recurring practice of detaining juvenile offenders until they reach the age of 18 and then executing them, as would be the case with both Holoumi and Ebrahimi.

These death sentences constitute serious violations of human rights and international law as they are contrary to Article 6 (4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, both which prohibit the death sentence for crimes committed by a minor. The Islamic Republic of Iran ratified both of these instruments in 1975 and 1994 respectively.

Given the EU Guidelines on the Death Penalty which state that “[c]apital punishment may not be imposed on: Persons below 18 years of age at the time of the commission of their crime,” we look to you to use any and all means available to ensure that these violations of human rights against children cease immediately.

FIDH therefore calls on you to:

  • demand that the Iranian authorities halt the executions of Rasoul Holoumi and Razieh Ebrahimi, as well as any other inmates facing imminent execution for crimes committed as minors;
  • urge the Iranian authorities to retry all death row inmates sentenced for crimes committed as minors, with a view to revoke any death sentences imposed against juvenile offenders; and
  • call on the Iranian authorities to respect their international commitments under Article 6 (4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

We are sensitive to the fact that you are leading an important negotiation with the Iranian authorities on their respect of their international commitment with regards to nuclear disarmament. Nevertheless, on the eve of the last round of nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers, echoing concerns about the execution of juvenile offenders, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged for these negotiations to “fully cover the human rights situation. We do need a commitment on the part of Iran that they will protect the human rights of their citizens.” We echo this call by the High Commissioner and urge you to uphold your stated commitments to human rights, including the protection of children from unlawful execution, by intervening in these urgent cases, and calling for a moratorium of the death penalty in Iran.

We welcome your previous extensive work on the issue of the death penalty as a personal priority and hope that you continue to reflect this priority in your interactions with Iran.

Best regards,

Karim Lahidji
President of FIDH

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