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Iran’s execution of a juvenile offender last week violated international law, Human Rights Watch said today in letters to the president and head of the judiciary.

Two youths, aged eighteen and nineteen, were put to death on July 19 after they were found guilty of sexually assaulting a thirteen-year-old boy some fourteen months earlier. One of the youths was seventeen at the time of the offense.

“Death is an inhumane punishment, particularly for someone under eighteen at the time of his crimes,” said Hadi Ghaemi, Iran researcher for Human Rights Watch. “All but a handful of countries forbid such executions. Iran should as well.”

Before the two youths were put to death, each also received 228 lashes for theft, disturbing public order, and consuming alcohol.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights prohibit the imposition of the death penalty for crimes committed before the age of eighteen. These treaties also prohibit the use of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishments. Iran has ratified both treaties.

Iran is thought to have executed at least four other juvenile offenders in 2004, and at least thirty juvenile offenders are on the country’s death row. Human Rights Watch has confirmed the names and ages at the time of offense of five juvenile offenders under sentence of death in Iran: Milad Bakhtiari, 17 years old; Hussein Haghi, 16 years old; Hussein Taranj, 17 years old; Farshad Saeedi, 17 years old; Saeed Khorrami, 16 years old.

Elsewhere in the world, only China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, and the United States are known to have put juvenile offenders to death in the past five years. The United States executed nine juvenile offenders during this period; the other countries are each known to have put one juvenile offender to death. The U.S. Supreme Court declared the juvenile death penalty unconstitutional in March 2005.

Iran’s Majlis has for four years considered legislation that would amend the civil code to prohibit executions for crimes committed under the age of eighteen. Human Rights Watch, which opposes capital punishment in all circumstances, urged Iran’s leadership to support the change and to prohibit the imposition of amputation, flogging, and stoning as criminal penalties.

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