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Rights groups criticize Iran for executing female sentenced to death as juvenile

[JURIST] An Iranian woman sentenced to death for a murder committed as a juvenile was secretly executed Friday, drawing criticism from human rights groups. Delara Darabi, a 23-year-old Iranian artist sentenced to death six years ago as a juvenile on a murder conviction, was executed in secret [HRW press release] at Rasht Central Prison on Friday morning. Although the execution had initially been set to occur last month, the head of Iran's Judiciary granted Darabi a two month stay of execution [AI report] in response to vehement outcries of advocacy groups and other international critics. Contrary to Iranian law, which holds that a defense lawyer must be notified at least 48 hours in advance if his or her client is set to be executed, Darabi's lawyer was not informed in advance of the execution. Darabi's parents were informed of the execution only moments before it occurred by way of a frantic phone call from their daughter. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] said that Iranian authorities may have opted for a secret execution in order to avoid a public outcry such as the one that occurred prior to Darabi's initially scheduled execution date last month. The EU Presidency [official website] staunchly criticized [statement] the execution as a violation of international human rights standards with which Iran voluntarily agreed to comply. The National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI) [advocacy website] interpreted [statement] the move as a testament to the country's unwillingness to improve societal standards for women, saying, "In thirty years of mullahs’ misogynist rule, women have continued to be the target of the most brutal crimes and have suffered oppression more than any other section of the society."

Darabi was the second person this year to be executed for a crime allegedly committed while she was a minor. As there were seven such executions last year, and as there are reportedly approximately 130 juvenile convicts currently on death row [HRW reports] in Iran, the country has received a great deal of criticism [JURIST report] for failing to adhere to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child [text], to which Iran is a party. Last October, Iran banned the execution of minors for drug related crimes [JURIST report]. In both September [JURIST report] of last year and in June of 2007, HRW called for Iran to stop using the death penalty for juveniles [JURIST report; HRW press release] convicted of serious crimes.

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