Iran: Open letter to UN human rights experts to intervene against ongoing juvenile executions

Open Letter
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Paris-Geneva, 17 May 2016

• The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mr. Ahmed Shaheed
• The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Mr. Christof Heyns
• The Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Mr. Juan Mendez
• Members of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child
• Members of the UN Human Rights Committee

Dear Sirs/Madams,

I am writing to request your urgent intervention in the case of Alireza Tajiki, who was 15 years old at the time of his arrest in 2012 for alleged rape and murder. His execution was scheduled for Sunday 15 May 2016 in Adelabad prison in the city of Shiraz, but his lawyer and a number of other supporters managed to secure a temporary stay of execution. However, it is not clear for how long the execution has been postponed, notably because Iran’s Islamic Penal Code empowers parents of the victims of murder to demand the execution of the alleged perpetrator.

The death sentence imposed on Mr. Tajiki is primarily based on a “confession” extracted from him under torture during his initial detention in solitary confinement, even though he retracted this “confession” during his trial, stating that he had been tortured and proclaiming his innocence. Throughout his detention and trial, Mr. Tajiki was denied due process, including being denied access to a lawyer during the investigation period.

After a trial that failed to meet international standards of fairness and transparency, he was sentenced to death in April 2014. A branch of the Supreme Court overturned this sentence and sent the case back to the issuing court for lack of evidence, and ordered further investigation. Nevertheless, the first-instance court re-imposed the death sentence based on the defendant’s “confessions,” without any reference to any other evidence or investigation into torture allegations. Despite this gross failure to investigate, the Supreme Court upheld the second death sentence.

Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh, Alireza Tajiki’s lawyer, who has applied for his retrial, stated on her Facebook page: “There are many ambiguous aspects in his file that create many doubts about the sentence. The worst aspect is that Alireza Tajiki was not older than 15 [at the time of the commission of the alleged offence].”

The Islamic Republic of Iran has been the biggest executioner of juvenile offenders worldwide for some years. The usual practice in Iran is to keep the alleged juvenile offenders in prison until they reach the age of 18 and then execute them. Nevertheless, several defendants have been executed even before reaching the age of 18.

International human rights organisations have documented the executions of at least 73 juveniles since 2005, including four in 2015, 13 in 2014, eight in 2013, four in 2012 and seven in 2011. On 19 October 2015, the UN Secretary General expressed his deep sadness regarding the execution of two juvenile offenders the week before in Iran. According to the Secretary General’s report to the Human Rights Council in February 2015, at least 160 juvenile offenders were reportedly on death row as of December 2014. (A/HRC/28/26)

Recalling that Iran is a State party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, I request you to:

-  ask Iran to order a fair retrial of Alireza Tajiki without recourse to the death penalty, and to fully investigate the allegations that he was subjected to torture ;
-  urge Iran to repeal all death sentences against juveniles and order retrials in all cases of death-row juveniles, in compliance with its obligations under international human rights law, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and
-  call on UN member states, and in particular those States with economic and political ties with Iran, to use their influence to insist that Iran stop the practice of juvenile executions.

Karim Lahidji
FIDH President

CC: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein

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