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Iran bans execution of minors for drug-related crimes

[JURIST] Iran has banned the execution of minors for drug-related crimes, but will still allow the sentence to be imposed against juveniles convicted of murder, according to a statement [AP report] made by Iran's Assistant Attorney General for Judicial Affairs Hossein Zabhi on Saturday. Zabhi announced a new directive [Etemaad report, in Arabic] limiting the use of the death penalty for crimes committed by minors last week, but the scope of the ban had been unclear. Zabhi has now said that executions for juvenile offenders will still be allowed where the punishment is sought by the victim's family under an Islamic law principle of retribution called qisas. The directive had been praised by rights groups including Stop Child Executions (SCE), Amnesty International (AI), and Human Rights Watch (HRW) [press releases], but is likely to be criticized in light of the clarification. The sentences of those juvenile offenders set to to be executed for drug crimes will be commuted to life in prison under the directive. Reuters has more.

In September, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] urged Iran [JURIST news archive] to ban the use of the death penalty [UN News Centre report; JURIST report] against juvenile offenders. Later that month, HRW issued a report [JURIST report] calling on all Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Pakistan, and Yemen to stop their use of the punishment for minors. In August, Iran executed a man [JURIST report] for a stabbing he was convicted of committing as a minor. Rights groups say Iranian executions of juveniles violate the terms of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child [text], to which Iran is a signatory, but officials for the country argue that it and similar executions are allowed because the offenders reached the age of majority before being executed. HRW has said [press release] that Iran leads the world in executing the most people for crimes committed as children and SCE keeps a list [advocacy materials] of minors facing execution in Iran.

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