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HRW calls for global end to juvenile executions

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released a report [text; press release] Wednesday calling on Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Pakistan, and Yemen to join in a global moratorium on the death penalty [JURIST news archive] for juveniles. The report states that the five countries are the last in the world known to engage in the practice, with a combined 32 executions of juvenile offenders since 2005. HRW said that Saudia Arabia and Iran, which alone has carried out 26 of those 32 juvenile executions, have not implemented legislation prohibiting the practice, while Sudan, Pakistan, and Yemen do not enforce their national bans. Noting that over 100 juvenile offenders are currently on death row or awaiting final verdicts within the five named countries, HRW recommended that

Governments in states that have yet to prohibit the juvenile death penalty for all crimes should
1. Enact as a matter of urgency legislation banning the imposition of capital punishment or life without parole on persons who were under 18 at the time of the crime, without exceptions;
2. Immediately implement a moratorium on all executions of persons convicted of crimes committed before age 18, pending passage of legislation banning the juvenile death penalty;
3. Review all existing death sentences passed on persons who were under 18 at the time of the crime, and immediately commute those sentences to custodial or other sentences in conformity with international juvenile justice standards.
For countries that already have a juvenile execution ban in place, the report emphasized the need for judicial understanding and enforcement of the ban and called for child defendants to have access to legal assistance. HRW also urged the United Nations General Assembly [official website], meeting in New York next week, to expand their December 2007 call for a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty [JURIST report] to include a report on compliance with the juvenile death penalty ban. AFP has more.

In June 2007, HRW called for Iran to stop using the death penalty for juveniles [JURIST report; HRW press release] convicted of serious crimes. HRW said that Iran has executed offenders who committed crimes when they were as young as 15. Wednesday's report said that Iranian judges can impose the death penalty in capital cases with defendants as young as nine years old for girls and 15 years old for boys. All five countries named by HRW are parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and Iran, Sudan, and Yemen are parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [texts]. According to HRW, both treaties "prohibit the imposition of the death penalty for crimes committed before the age of 18." After years of criticism from HRW and other rights groups, the United States Supreme Court formally abolished [HRW report; JURIST report] executions for crimes committed by juveniles in 2005.

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