Growing up on death row – Amnesty International

By   /   January 27, 2016  /   17 Comments

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Between 2005 and 2015, Amnesty International recorded 73 hangings of child offenders, including at least four in 2015. A UN report issued in August 2014 stated that more than 160 juvenile offenders were on death row.

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The names of young people who have been executed and those that remain on death row in Iran. © Amnesty International

By Sara Daneshvar – volunteer writer with Amnesty International

In December last year I, as well as thousands of other Amnesty International supporters, wrote a letter to the Iranian authorities urging them to retrial Saman Naseem, a juvenile offender who was sentenced to death for alleged crimes committed when he was 17.

Saman was tortured into confessing to shooting a soldier. And using this ‘confession’ he was sentenced to death.

It’s simple, this should not be happening.

Iran is signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention indicates that Iran is legally obliged to treat everyone under the age of 18 as a child and ensure that they are never subjected to the death penalty, nor to life imprisonment without possibility of release.

It is time for Iran to respect their international obligations, and for international actors to put pressure on Iranian authorities and shed a light on their abuses.

That’s precisely what Amnesty International’s latest report, “Growing up on death row – Death penalty and juvenile offenders in Iran”, is doing. It debunks recent attempts by Iran’s authorities to whitewash their continuing violations of children’s rights and deflect criticism of their appalling record as one of the world’s last executioners of juvenile offenders.

Let’s remember that, despite some juvenile justice reforms, Iran continues to lag behind the rest of the world, maintaining laws that permit girls as young as nine and boys as young as 15 to be sentenced to death.

Iran’s death penalty record is atrocious.  At least 2,000 people are currently awaiting death in prison cells. The number of executions for 2015 varies from at least 966 to 1,084, even though it is extremely likely to be much higher, given the Government’s secrecy surrounding capital punishment. With these numbers, it’s no surprise that Iran tops the grim global table of executioners.

Between 2005 and 2015, Amnesty International recorded 73 hangings of child offenders, including at least four in 2015. A UN report issued in August 2014 stated that more than 160 juvenile offenders were on death row.

But there are reasons to hope the situation can get better. After years of criticism, Iran changed its Islamic Penal code in 2013 allowing judges to assess a juvenile offender’s mental maturity at the time of the offence, and potentially, to impose an alternative punishment to the death penalty on the basis of the outcome. Also in 2014, Iran’s Supreme Court confirmed that all juvenile offenders on death row could apply for retrial. In June 2015 Iran introduced reforms specifying that juveniles accused of a crime must be dealt with by specialised juvenile courts.

Too often, Iran is mentioned in the media for its appalling human rights record, and is viewed sometimes with apprehension, sometimes with misunderstanding. I’d like to challenge that perception by saying that Iran is a great country with a long and rich history, and its people are proud of their culture.

That’s why it’s important to talk about Iran’s human rights abuses, because it can and should be better. But it is equally important not to demonise a country and to recognise the authorities’ potential to improve and strive to promote and protect human rights, including the rights of its younger citizens.

As Iran re-enters the world of international diplomacy and is being perceived in a more positive light, it is crucial that world leaders, including New Zealand, use such new channels to raise concerns with Iranian authorities.

Challenging the widespread use of capital punishment in the country and urging them to immediately commute all death sentences for juvenile offenders would be a great place to start. I hope that continued pressures on Iran will eventually prove too tough to bare, and demonstrate to the Iranian authorities that the world cares about how they treat their people.  

I am categorically opposed to the death penalty, in any way, shape or form, and I stand by the phrase “The death penalty is not a sentence, it’s a full stop.” The death penalty never serves justice. Iran needs to build a fair society with human rights at its basis, and respect individual freedoms.

 

Read the full report here: https://www.amnesty.org.nz/juvenile-offender-tortured-and-sentenced-death

Take action for Saman Naseem – https://www.amnesty.org.nz/juvenile-offender-tortured-and-sentenced-death

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17 Comments

  1. im right says:

    And how many of these 160 Juvinile Offenders are on death row for purely Islamic crimes, and not ‘crimes’ we would recognise in the non Islamic world I wonder?. What could an 8-16yr old female have done that deserves the death penalty apart from Islamic Sharia Law?
    I know I will be shouted down for being ‘racist?’, ‘islamaphobic?’, ‘feel free insert another here’ …but someone has to ask the questions.
    Afterall Islam is rooted in the stone age and it seems to have not progressed it’s laws to match the entirely different world now of the 20th/21st centuries.
    Islamic countries are listed at the top of executing prisoners ‘top 10’ worldwide, so this is no surprise, sad yes, a surprise? unfortunately no!

    • You seem more fixated on Islam than the actual death penalty itself, IR.

      Do you oppose the death penalty, irrespective of which country is involved?

      • im right says:

        I believe the death penalty should be used in extreme circumstances, unfortunately setting that bar is difficuilt but not impossible. I’m not fixated on Islam, but the post is talking about Iran (and 147 executed in Saudi Arabia a cpl of weeks ago, although unsure if any were juvenile). The point I was trying to make, and I believe a valid one, is how many are there soley for crimes against Allah, The Koran, Islamic Law basically. The only example is a shooting of someone and confession via torture which is unacceptable in any country. I feel the author Sara has deliberately skipped this area of what their crimes are (especially the females on death row).

        • Captain Coco says:

          That’s an interesting point, but I think your obsession with this has made you miss the actual point of the blog and the report it’s based on, which is focused on the death penalty and especially the use of the death penalty against people who have committed crimes while under the age of 18.

          While I take your questioning as intellectually valid, and although I can offer you no answers, I’d pose this question to you in reply: what would be the point of this blog or this report – which clearly aims to place pressure on Iranian authorities to halt the use of the death penalty and meet their expectations set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child – in delving deeply into the crimes themselves? This blog offers criticism not of what constitutes a crime in Iran, but rather how they choose to punish them.

          Making a report which not only attempts to rectify the use of the death penalty but also offers a rebuke of all religiously-driven law would only make it harder to achieve Amnesty’s main aim here, the eradication of the death penalty.

          I’d urge you to go out and attempt to research and follow your own lines of enquiry, because it could be an interesting read, but also actually understand the purpose and aims of the report and this blog.

        • Captain Coco says:

          That’s an interesting point, but I think your obsession with this has made you miss the actual point of the blog and the report it’s based on, which is focused on the death penalty and especially the use of the death penalty against people who have committed crimes while under the age of 18.

          While I take your questioning as intellectually valid, and although I can offer you no answers, I’d pose this question to you in reply: what would be the point of this blog or this report – which clearly aims to place pressure on Iranian authorities to halt the use of the death penalty and meet their expectations set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child – in delving deeply into the crimes themselves? This blog offers criticism not of what constitutes a crime in Iran, but rather how they choose to punish them.

          Making a report which not only attempts to rectify the use of the death penalty but also offers a rebuke of all religiously-driven law would only make it harder to achieve Amnesty’s main aim here, the eradication of the death penalty.

          I’d urge you to go out and attempt to research and follow your own lines of enquiry, because it could be an interesting read, but also actually understand the purpose and aims of the report and this blog.

          • Sam Sam says:

            On an operational level, ie defusing hostage situation. The state still practices lethal force that ends with perps ceasing to be a threat.

            • Perhaps, am, but usually those “perps” are offered a chance to surrender. If not, well… the outcome usually doesn’t end very well.

              So, not quite the same as a prisoner, unarmed, powerless, and not much of a threat behind bars.

              • Sam Sam says:

                Well I’m still scratching my head wondering why children under the age of 16 are in jail. Let alone tried as an adult.

                I think it probably can be fixed, but only with the rest of the justice system (which may require fixing society as a whole.)

        • I believe the death penalty should be used in extreme circumstances

          Nope, that explanation won’t wash.

          I’m sure China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, USA, et al, all invoke the rationale of “extreme circumstances” to justify state-sanctioned killings (aka, “capital punishment”).

          You predicate your argument solely on “chang[ing] the islamic law” (see your 5.06 post below) – as if to say that once that is changed, state executions are then permissable?!

          That is why you appear to be fixated on Islam, rather than capital punishment.

  2. Mike in Auckland says:

    Appalling human rights record, and it seems much worse even than what the Saudi authorities are responsible for.

  3. Im right says:

    @captain coco….the point i was trying to make, not very well it seems, is in order to get rid of the death penalty in iran (as report is on iran) you first have to change the islamic law, yes to make exempt under 18’s but also to cut down the many number of crimes under islamic law that carry the death sentence. The western death penalties are for just a few crimes like premeditated murder and a cpl of others, im pretty sure iran has many many more and it would have been helpful if the author had given more examples of why under 18yr olds are on death row apart from one example, i unrrstand the theme of the post is that they are under 18 and fair enough, but would be more powerful and indeed thought provoking if we had the reasons for them being on death row….can’t all be murderers! Although the one example given is that but very doubtful conviction by the sounds of it.

    • @captain coco….the point i was trying to make, not very well it seems, is in order to get rid of the death penalty in iran (as report is on iran) you first have to change the islamic law

      Really?

      What law would you change in the United States? Would you advocate the US abandoning it’s so-called Christian heritage?

      • Andrea says:

        The First Amendment says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.

        The US doesn’t need to abandon it’s ‘so-called Christian heritage’. It just needs to stop dragging it into everything and selectively applying bible teachings. In polite terms – bullying anyone who follows different faiths and religions.

        What law would I change? Their ragtag and seriously tainted laws around the hiring of police personnel – from the CIA and FBI down to the people who work on the front line in the various counties and cities. Too much political/ideological and not enough professional. Very uneven and unjust.

        I’d also have a crack at the laws around incarceration and drugs and misdemeanours.

        America and Saudi Arabia/Iran – two sides of the same coin, and the decent people pay the price, wherever they are.

        And for all of them: “How can you think of saying, ‘Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” Luke6-42

        (The old Xtian heritage can be quite useful at times – even for we non-believers…)

      • im right says:

        Why would I want to change the laws in USA?, ahhh because that’s the only western country that has the death penalty (and not all states within USA do), Murder(s) being the main reason someone is executed in USA, but i certainly would want it changed if someone was executed for changing their religion, blasphemy, being gay or caught handing out copies of the bible, but they don’t…but we all know countries that do don’t we?!

    • Captain Coco says:

      I think we’re basically splitting hairs, advocating for an end to the death penalty in Iran would obviously cut down the number of crimes in Iran which carry the death penalty. If you’re just advocating for an end to it, you don’t really need to get into the contents of Sharia law at all, not in the same discussion anyway, and Amnesty could address concerns about freedom of expression or religion which may conceivably arise in other campaigns.

      In addition, just saying ‘stop using the death penalty, it doesn’t work and never has, it isn’t just, doesn’t prevent crime, doesn’t deter crime, and leads to the murder of innocent people’ conveniently sidesteps the perceived or real notions of cultural superiority Western NGOs can often communicate in their messaging. Which really doesn’t help at all, because why would you take someone’s recommendations on fair punishment on-board while they’re effectively just telling you everything you believe is wrong?

      Considering the US uses drone strikes to deliver the death penalty to suspected militants and anyone who happens to be near them, and considering their western allies regularly turn a blind eye to that, this weird west vs east comparison you want to start here makes absolutely no sense to me.

  4. Sam Sam says:

    Well you know what they say about that phrase ” an eye for an eye.”

    Every one goes blind

  5. Tom Gardner says:

    The murderer who killed Blessie Gotinco (?spelling) in Auckland represents a good case for capital punsihment


 
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