The Iranian government should prevent the execution of Makwan Mouloudzadeh, who was sentenced to death for crimes allegedly committed when he was aged 13, Human Rights Watch said today. Court authorities in the city of Kermanshah should follow the recent order by the head of the Judiciary to allow judicial review of the case.
On June 5, 2007, Branch Seven of the Penal Court of the city of Kermanshah sentenced Mouloudzadeh, to death for raping three boys in 2000, even though all of his accusers had recanted their statements and he had repudiated his confession as being coerced by the police. Mouloudzadeh, now aged 20, was convicted as a juvenile offender since the crimes were allegedly committed when he was under age 18.
After the Supreme Court in July upheld the conviction, the head of Iran’s judiciary, Ayatollah Shahrudi, exercised his authority to declare the conviction to be contrary to shari’a (Islamic law). An order by Shahrudi on November 3 requires that a branch of the Review and Follow-up Unit of the Judiciary investigate the case and then refer it back to the Penal Court of Kermanshah.
On December 3, Mouloudzadeh’s lawyer told Human Rights Watch that the Kermanshah court had informed him that the sentence could now be carried out even though the required judicial review had not been completed.
The court authorities in Kermanshah are legally obligated to follow the Judiciary’s order and halt the execution,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “They are rushing to execute a young man for crimes that even his accusers now admit never took place.”
Mouloudzadeh’s conviction followed a trial filled with irregularities. Iranian laws concerning “crimes of chastity” such as rape divest the prosecutor of some of his traditional prerogatives. These laws transfer authority to the penal court to question the accusers and arrange for examination by a physician, and to decide whether to bring the case to trial. Acting in defiance of these laws, the office of the public prosecutor in Kermanshah conducted these investigations and decided to take the case to trial.
During the trial, all of Mouloudzadeh’s accusers recanted their accusations against him and Mouloudzadeh himself testified that any confessions that he had made to the police about the alleged crimes were coerced and false. The judge did not accept their testimonies and sentenced Mouloudzadeh to death.
Under Iranian law, “crimes of chastity” such as rape are not subject to the regular appellate process, and are instead sent directly to the country’s Supreme Court for review. On July 19, Iran’s Supreme Court approved the death sentence for Mouloudzadeh, allowing the authorities to carry out the sentence at any time.
Iran leads the world in executing juvenile offenders – persons under 18 at the time of the crime – and is known to have already executed two juvenile offenders this year. Syed Mohammad Reza Mousavi Shirazi, 20, was executed in Adel Abd prison in the city of Shiraz on April 22, for a murder he was found to have committed when he was 16. Sa`id Qanbar Zahi was executed in Zahedan on May 27 for a crime he was found to have committed when he was 17.
Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all circumstances because of its cruel and inhumane nature. In particular, in imposing death sentences on people for crimes committed before the age of 18, Iran flouts clear and specific human rights obligations. Two key human rights treaties that Iran has ratified, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, bar the imposition of the death penalty for such offenses. These provisions reflect the reality that children are different from adults. They lack the experience, judgment, maturity and restraint of an adult.
Iranian officials claim that legislation pending in parliament since July 2006 would end executions of juvenile offenders. In fact, the legislation would only offer the possibility of reduced sentences in a small minority of cases.