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Amnesty: Iran's death row reform falls short

Despite reforms, dozens of minors jailed in Iran on capital charges risk execution, Amnesty International reports. The findings come as the country is courting European investment.

London-based Amnesty International found that Iran executed at least 73 juvenile offenders between 2005 and 2015, including at least four last year, the group reported Tuesday.

"Successive Iranian governments and parliaments have failed to undertake the fundamental reforms that are sorely needed to put an end to this grave violation of human rights," Amnesty wrote.

The 110-page report intensifies pressure on Iran at a time when Tehran is working to rebuild relations with European countries following a landmark nuclear deal that lifted most sanctions against the nation.

Hassan Rouhani in Rom

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani received a warm reception in Italy this week where the two countries signed contracts worth up to 17 billion euros ($18.4).

Courting European investment

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani arrived in Rome to this week to court investment. It's the first European trip by an Iranian president in almost two decades. The visit, which will also include stops at the Vatican and France, has already led to lucrative business and trade deals.

But the report notes that Iran is one of the world's largest users of the death penalty, ranking second behind China in 2014. Most executions overall in Iran are carried out for drug smuggling.

In fact, a 2014 UN report put the number of juvenile offenders at risk of execution at more than 160, with at least 73 condemned for murder.

Still others were executed for crimes such as rape, drug-related crimes and national security offenses such as "enmity against God."

2013 reforms a good first step

Ahmed Shaheed, UN-Menschenrechtsbeauftragter für Iran

UN investigator Ahmed Shaheed told the General Assembly in October that executions in Iran had been rising at "an exponential rate" since 2005.

Reforms introduced in 2013 give judges more discretion to take into account juvenile offenders' mental maturity and the Islamic Republic's highest court has since said juvenile offenders facing execution could petition for a retrial. It also established juvenile courts for minors.

But Amnesty - which campaigns against the death penalty worldwide - urges Iran to go further.

"Despite some juvenile justice reforms, Iran continues to lag behind the rest of the world, maintaining laws that permit girls as young as 9 and boys as young as 15 to be sentenced to death," Amnesty reported.

The UN's special investigator on the human rights situation in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, warned last October that executions in Iran had risen at an "exponential rate" since 2005. He said Iran put more people to death per capita than any other country.

The head of Iran's Human Rights Council, Mohammad Javad Larijani, subsequently dismissed the UN report as "a collection of baseless accusations."

jar/jil (AP, Amnesty)

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