Iran Insists Executing Children Is Not a Human Rights Violation

Balal, who killed Iranian youth Abdolah Hosseinzadeh in a street fight with a knife in 2007, is brought to the gallows during his execution ceremony in the northern city of Noor on April 15, 2014. The mother of Abdolah Hosseinzadeh spared the life of the her son's convicted murderer, with …
ARASH KHAMOOSHI/AFP via Getty Images

Senior Iranian official Majid Tafreshi, a member of the Iranian regime’s High Council for Human Rights, argued on Wednesday that executing underage children is not a “symbol of violations of human rights.” Tafreshi said Iran executes children under 18 about “three or four times” a year.

Tafreshi made his remarks in an interview with AFP prompted by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet blasting Iran for its “widespread use of the death penalty” a week ago.

Bachelet cited two recent executions of individuals convicted for crimes they allegedly committed when they were underage. She noted one was executed “following a judicial process that appears to have been deeply flawed.”

“The executions of these two child offenders are absolutely prohibited under international human rights law,” Bachelet declared. “Numerous United Nations bodies and experts have made it clear time and time again that the imposition of the death penalty for crimes committed by people below the age of 18 at the time of the offence is strictly prohibited [sic].”

“Despite repeated interventions and engagement by my own Office with the Government of Iran on this issue, the sentencing and executions of child offenders continue. This is both regrettable and, given the clear illegality of these actions, reprehensible,” she said.

“When we are talking about under-18s, we are not talking about six or five years old. We are talking about mainly our 17 years old big boys [sic] (where) the court recognized their maturity,” Tafreshi responded to AFP on Wednesday.

Tafreshi complained that “nobody applauds Iran” for his council’s work to “minimize the number of executions” as much as possible, by “trying to convince the victims’ family to pardon” offenders. He insisted execution is endorsed by Islam’s “eye for an eye” if the families of victims demand a death sentence, but said his office is able to talk them into pardons about 96 percent of the time.

The Iranian official dismissed U.N. criticism as “propaganda” and said U.S. sanctions against Iran are a better example of “barbaric” behavior that should be condemned as a human rights violation.

In addition to criticizing Iran’s current execution policies, the U.N. human rights apparatus is also considering a probe of newly elected Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, a hardline cleric and former head of the judiciary, for his role in the mass slaughter of dissidents in 1988.

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