Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Iran: Good news points to legal flaws

The acquittal of an Iranian teenager who killed a man when he attacked her has highlighted the need for "urgent legal reforms" to protect juveniles accused of a crime, according to Amnesty International.

Mahabad Fatehi, known as Nazanin, was cleared of murder by a Tehran court on 14 January. In March 2005, when she was 17 years old, she stabbed one man in a group of three who attempted to rape her and her 15 year-old neice in a Tehran park.

In January 2006 Nazanin was convicted of pre-meditated murder and sentenced to death.

Following an international campaign against her death sentence, including a global petition organised by Canadian singer and former beauty contestant Nazanin Afshin-Jam, who was born in Iran, the Supreme Court ordered a retrial in May 2006.

Amnesty International said the latest court verdict highlighted the need for changes to the law to ensure people accused of crimes committed before they were 18 years old could not be sentenced to death.

For several years Iran has considered legislation that would ban the use of the death penalty against juvenile offenders. Amnesty International said a reform bill had "not yet been approved by the Council of Guardians, which vets Iran's legislation for conformity with Islamic principles".
The human rights organisation said Iran and Pakistan were the only countries in the world to execute child offenders in 2006, and Iran had executed at least 21 child offenders since 1990.
But as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Iran had committed not to execute juvenile offenders.
Stay of execution for musician
In a second case, Sina Paymard, who was convicted of a murder committed when he was 16, was reportedly granted a stay of execution by the Head of the Judiciary.

Sina Paymard was scheduled to be executed in September 2006, but he was spared at the gallows by the family of his victim. Family members were reportedly moved to mercy when he played the ney, a Middle Eastern flute.

In November 2006 his lawyer requested a review of the case and submitted new evidence that Sina Paymard suffered from mental illness.

Twenty-three more
Amnesty International reported that at least 23 other child offenders are reportedly on death row in Iran.

In December, the organisation said that Hossein Gharabaghloo was at risk of imminent execution for a murder committed when he was 16. The Supreme Court had confirmed his death sentence on 13 December, and AI said "he could now be executed at any time".

Related story:
Iran world leader executing juveniles -- 04 October, 2006

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