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UN Experts Urge Iran To Halt 'Unlawful Execution' Of Juvenile Offender

Iran -- Iran's revolutionary court room, undated.
Geneva, June 19, 2018 (AFP)

Two UN rights experts urgently appealed to Iran on Tuesday to halt the planned execution of a man sentenced to death for a murder committed when he was 15 years old.

The experts said they had received word that Mohammad Kalhori would be executed shortly after the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which concluded last week.

"The Iranian authorities must halt the execution of this juvenile offender and annul the death sentence against him in compliance with their international obligations," the experts said in a statement.

Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and Renate Winter, who heads the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, pointed out that international standards "unequivocally forbid the imposition of the death sentence on anyone under 18 years old at the time of the offence".

They also stressed that Iran had committed to following these norms.

"As such, this execution is unlawful and arbitrary," they said.

Callamard and Winter noted that in 2013, Iran had amended its Islamic Penal Code to allow judges to pronounce alternative sentences for juvenile offenders if there was any uncertainty about their "mental development" at the time of the crime, or if they did not fully realise the nature of the crime committed.

The experts pointed out that Iran's State forensic institution had concluded that Kalhori, who was convicted of killing his teacher at the age of 15, was not mentally mature at the time of the crime, and that the Criminal Court had initially sentenced him to prison and a fine.

But "following an appeal and apparent letters sent by a government official and a member of parliament," the Supreme Court overturned the verdict and he was sentenced to death during a retrial, the experts said.

"Notwithstanding the clear prohibition of the application of the death penalty for those under the age of 18, this case demonstrates flagrant disregard for the amendment to the Penal Code itself," they said.

They cautioned that it also "raises concerns about possible interference in the independence of the judiciary."

Iran does not publish official statistics on the number of people it has executed.

According to an April report by Amnesty International, Iran put at least 507 people to death last year, including at least five juvenile offenders.