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IRAN: Calls to ban juvenile death penalty

September 10, 2008 |  7:35 am

Amnesty With at least 26 executions in the past three years, Iran remains by far the leader of five countries still carrying executions for crimes committed by juveniles, a human rights organization said in a report released today.

The other countries are also part of the Muslim world: Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Pakistan and Yemen. The organization slammed juvenile death penalty as a “barbaric practice” and urged governments attending next week’s United Nations General Assembly to adopt reforms that protect the rights of children facing trials.

Clarisa Bencomo, a researcher for HRW on children’s rights, sounded the alarm:

We are only five states away from a complete ban on the juvenile death penalty. … These few holdouts should abandon this barbaric practice so that no one ever again is executed for a crime committed as a child. … Even states that still execute juvenile offenders acknowledge that such executions are wrong. But changes in law and practice need to be faster.

According to the New-York-based Human Rights Watch, over 100 offenders who were under 18 when they allegedly committed crimes remain on death row around the world.

In Iran, capital punishment can be imposed if the defendant has reached the age of “majority," which is set by Iranian law as young as 9 for girls and 15 for boys. In Saudi Arabia, offenders who have reached puberty at the time of the crime can be sentenced to death.

In 2005, the United States Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional capital punishment for those who commit crimes under age 18.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, the decision was expected to reverse the death sentences of 72 convicted murderers who committed their crimes as juveniles.

Raed Rafei in Beirut

Photo: A human rights activist in Germany protests against the death penalty in Iran. Credit: Amnesty International Australia

P.S. The Los Angeles Times issues a free daily newsletter with the latest headlines from the Middle East, as well as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can subscribe by logging in at the website here, clicking on the box for "L.A. Times updates," and then clicking on the "World: Mideast" box.

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