Ahmadinejad Misrepresents Iranian Law on Juvenile Executions
(27 September 2008) President Ahmadinejad falsely claimed that Iranian law does not allow for the execution of juvenile offenders in an interview with the New York Times, published on 26 September 2008. As the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran and other human rights organizations have thoroughly documented, Iran leads the world in executing juvenile offenders.
According to the transcript of the interview, published on the New York Times’ website, Ahmadinejad said: “In Iran youngsters are not executed. Where have they been executed? Our law actually sets 18 as the criminally liable age for capital punishment.”“Either President Ahmadinejad is ignorant of his country’s laws and practices or he is purposefully deceitful. Either way, he cannot change the truth that Iran is the only country to execute child offenders in 2008,” Hadi Ghaemi, the Campaign’s spokesperson said.
Article 49 of the Islamic Penal Code explicitly states the age of penal responsibility as the age of puberty. Iran’s Civil Code specifies the age of puberty as 15 lunar years for boys and 9 lunar years for girls.
Iran executed 16-year-old Mohammad Hassanzadeh, an Iranian Kurd, on 10 June 2008. The latest juvenile execution took place on 26 August 2008, when the authorities hung Behnam Zare (pictured above) in Shiraz for a crime he committed at age 15. In 2008, Iran has executed six juvenile offenders so far.
When New York Times reporters challenged Ahmadinejad’s assertion by mentioning the name of Behnam Zare, Ahmadinejad said: “Ah. Sometimes these figures get confused with the execution of drug traffickers. A large band of drug traffickers was actually executed in Iran, that is true.”
However, Zare was convicted of killing an associate and his case had no connection to drug trafficking. Zare, who was born in 1989, insisted his crime was an accident in the context of a childish quarrel. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has received a transcript of these words recorded from his prison cell days before his death: “I am Behnam Zare. I have been kept in Adel Abad prison in Shiraz, for 3 years. I am a murderer. I regret. It was only an accident. Human rights defenders! Save my life. I want to live. I want to be free. Is there someone to hear me? Is there someone to help me? I am spending my last days of life. Any minute I could be executed. I want to live. Save me…”
The Campaign has called on Iran to immediately and unconditionally abolish the death penalty for children and honor its obligations under international human rights treaties. A coalition of 24 major international and regional human rights organizations called on Iran to halt juvenile executions on 8 July 2008. UN human rights officers have repeatedly urged Iran to comply with its international treaty commitments.