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UN criticizes Iran death penalty against minors

October 24, 2019

The United Nations expert for monitoring human rights in Iran criticized the Tehran government for its use of the death penalty against minors. Two people aged under 18 have been executed by the state so far this year.

Iran Todesstrafe
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/W. Steinberg

Two 17-year-olds were among the 173 people executed by the state in Iran by mid-July 2019. In 2018 there were seven reported cases of executions of child offenders, a UN expert said on Wednesday.

There are also currently an estimated 90 individuals on death row all under the age of 18 at the time of their alleged offences, Javaid Rehman reported to the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

The UN special rapporteur, whose job is to monitor human rights in Iran, told the UNGA that the UN had an "unequivocal" position that any execution of a minor is "absolutely prohibited" and the practice in Iran must end.

Men hold a man hanged in public, to prevent his execution.
Iran is ranked second in the world for state executions.Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Bolourian

Worsening economy affects minorities

The UN expert also pointed out that the worsening economic situation in Iran, as a result of sanctions, particularly affected minority groups.

These religious and ethnic groups represent a disproportionate number of individuals who are executed on national security-related charges. A disproportionate number of political prisoners in the Islamic Republic were minorities, he added.

In 2013, changes to legislation were made to make it harder for child offenders to be executed in Iran.

Rehman also said he was encouraged by the "enhanced dialogue" between Iranian authorities and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights "on the administration of justice and child offender executions."

Read more: Opinion: Moving away from capital punishment, one step at a time

How does Iran compare?

Infografik Todesstrafe weltweit 2009 - 2018 EN

Rehman described Iran's death penalty rate as "one of the highest in the world" despite a drop from 507 in 2017 to 253 in 2018.

In part this drop is due to a change in Iran's anti-narcotics law in 2017.

According to Amnesty international, China remains the world's leading state executioner. Although the figure is classified, Amnesty suggest thousands of state killings are carried out in the country.

Read more: China allows death penalty for 'extremely serious' corruption cases

Iran came second place in 2018, carrying out 253 executions. Saudi Arabia ranks third in the world and Iraq ranks fourth for carrying out capital punishment.

Overall, executions are decreasing worldwide and 2018 saw a 31% drop in executions compared with 2017.

In Germany, voters symbolically abolished the death penalty in Hesse, the last state where it was legal, in 2018.

The vote was symbolic because Germany's federal constitution and EU law mean that the death penalty was already banned in the country.

Amnesty report indicates big fall in executions around world

kmm/se (dpa, AP)

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