The Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC) has issued a national call to action titled: “Stop Child Executions” demanding the end to child and juvenile executions. This national call to action is the third of such nationally focused efforts spearheaded by the Defenders of Human Rights Center and follows the convening of the “Committee to Defend Free, Healthy and Fair Elections” in August 2007 and the “National Council on Peace” in November of 2007 by this human rights NGO. The Defenders of Human Rights Center aims to increase public awareness and due attention among experts to this important issue, with the aim of identifying suggestions and strategies for ending the practice of child executions in Iran. This call to action has been issued while keeping in mind religious teachings in Islam and asks officials within the judiciary, the executive branch and the legislative branch to defend the right to life of children by taking steps to end the punishment of execution for child and juvenile offenders. The national call to action to “Stop Child Execution” will commence activities on the 19th of April, 2009. The text of the National Call to Action to Stop Child Executions is provided below:
Stop Child Executions: A National Call to Action
Every society has the right to defend the rights of its citizens against criminals and in so doing devise an appropriate response. This response should be devised based on the law, which needs to be developed based on a collective wisdom and reasoning.
From long ago, in various societies, the concept of taking responsibility for criminal actions has come to be an accepted norm. However it too is norm that those who commit crimes need to have the mental capacity and mental growth necessary to understand the consequences of their actions. As such those who do not benefit from sufficient mental capacity or who have not reached the age of adulthood and sufficient maturity necessary for such an understanding are not fit to be punished. Given this concept, many countries have signed onto international protocols that seek to protect the right to life of juvenile offenders who are under the age of eighteen. Furthermore, these countries have ensured that individuals under the age of 18 who commit crimes do not receive sentences of execution.
Statistics demonstrate that in the year 2005 only five countries in the world implemented the death penalty for juveniles under the age of eighteen. These minors have received the death penalty either as children or as teenagers. Further, the sentences of execution for these juveniles have been implemented either in their teenage years or these juveniles are awaiting their eighteenth birthday after which their sentence of execution will be implemented.
Unfortunately in the past decade our country, Iran, has been one of the main countries responsible for issuing death sentences to juvenile offender guilty of criminal offenses.
The Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC) believes that death sentences for juveniles under 18 years of age not only constitute injustice to the children of this land, but creates a violent and inhuman impression of Iran across the world. As such, the Defenders of Human Rights Center has issued a national call to “Stop Child Executions.”
It should be noted that the Iranian government is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as well as the Convention on the Rights of the Child. All three of these international agreements stress the need for all countries to end the execution of children under the age of eighteen.
The Defenders of Human Rights Center believes that the execution of minors as a social issue requires legal awareness designed to change the law, the need to adopt preventive and straightforward legal measures supportive of children’s rights as well as cultural, civil and social awareness raising activities designed to increase knowledge among the general public about the negative impact of seeking retributive measures seeking revenge which only work to promote violence. It should be noted that in our religious teachings as well the concepts of forgiveness and pardon have been greatly stressed. We believe that to address crimes we have to address their root causes and we have to identify the most foundational and appropriate strategies for reforming and improving our society.
The Defenders of Human Rights Center requests judiciary officials, officials in the executive branch of the government and the legislature to adopt measures designed to protect the life of children and to immediately end the death penalty for juvenile offenders. As such we ask the following:
A. We ask the legislature to use its first opportunity at adopting legislation to pass supportive legal measures in line with international human rights standards so that juvenile offenders who commit crimes while under the age of 18 no longer receive the death penalty.
B. We request fervently that the representatives of the people in the Parliament adopt legislation which increases the criminal age of responsibility to eighteen years of age and in so doing make a distinction between the concept of criminal responsibility and the age of religious responsibility—which in essence addresses the age of prayer and worship and religious duty. This action is essential because it will allow Iran to meet its international obligations and will end the dichotomous, contradictory and often multiple interpretations with respect to legal age of responsibility as they pertain to national and international laws.
A. We ask the government officials in the executive branch who are responsible for the security and the psychological well-being of society to act as guarantors for the implementation of international conventions to which our country is a signatory and obligated. We ask government officials to actively follow through with respect to their responsibilities and obligations to protect the life of the children of our society and to protect the right to life of juveniles offenders who have received the death penalty.
B. The violent actions of children and teenagers, which at times end in murder, and for which a sentence of retribution (Qesas or an eye for an eye) is implemented, have their roots in cultural and behavioral training. As such, we expect policy makers of our country to work with cultural institutions such as educational institutions and schools in an effort to prevent murder and violence and to teach about human rights.
And finally, of the Judicial officials who are charged with preparing and drafting procedural legislation for juvenile courts and juvenile offenders we ask that you:
A. Courageously and in a straightforward manner change the criminal age of responsibility to eighteen in the legislation for juvenile courts and juvenile offenders and like many progressive Islamic countries, end all forms of the death penalty for children under the age of eighteen.
B. Provide appropriate and serious oversight for adjudication in juvenile cases including the identification of competent courts for juveniles, provisions of and assurance for the right to legal representation for juvenile offenders and the right of incarcerated juveniles to maintain contact with family members, so that all steps designed to reform and train children who have fallen victim to social harms and who have committed crimes can be taken while still protecting their rights.
The Call to End Child Executions has been prepared by the Defenders of Human Rights Center and has been presented to government officials and published for consideration by the public. As such, we ask that all experts in the field of Islamic jurisprudence, law as well as social and cultural activists to assist us in the National Call to End Child Executions.
The Defenders of Human Rights Center
April 19, 2009