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Amnesty: Iran Remains Leading Executioner of Juvenile Offenders

FILE - Iranian exiles shout slogans in front of a mock gallows to protest against executions in Iran during a demonstration outside the Iranian embassy in Brussels, Dec. 29, 2010.

A leading international human rights organization says scores of youths in Iran are languishing on death row for crimes committed under the age of 18, under laws that permit girls as young as 9 and boys as young as 15 to be executed.

London-based Amnesty International, in a report entitled "Growing Up on Death Row: The Death Penalty and Juvenile Offenders in Iran," accuses Tehran of "a shameful disregard for the rights of children," as "one of the world's last executioners" of juveniles.

The report cites documentation for 73 juvenile executions in Iran between 2005 and 2015, and quotes United Nations' data showing at least 160 juvenile offenders currently on death row.

It says many of the condemned youth have spent years awaiting execution, and says that in some cases those executions have been postponed at the last minute, adding to the already "severe anguish" of the condemned inmates.

'Forced confessions'

Amnesty further claims that Iranian juveniles are often condemned to death following unfair trials "based on forced confessions extracted through torture and other ill-treatment." It also criticizes Tehran for "never" officially announcing when a juvenile is executed.

Additionally, the report describes some instances where judicial authorities fail to inform juvenile offenders of their right to apply for a retrial.

In cases where retrials are granted under recent judicial reforms, Amnesty cites what it calls a "growing trend" in which offenders are found — after cursory questioning — to have attained "mental maturity" at the time of the crime and then re-sentenced to death.

There has been no official response from Tehran to the Amnesty report, which comes seven months after the Islamic Republic introduced reforms under which suspected juvenile offenders must be tried in specialized juvenile courts.

Amnesty International calls those reforms "a welcome step," but says "it remains to be seen" whether they will prevent further use of the death penalty on juvenile offenders.