UNITED NATIONS - The U.N. independent expert on human rights in Iran urged Tehran on Wednesday to abolish the death penalty for juveniles.
"I appeal to the Iranian authorities to abolish the practice of sentencing children to death, and to commute all death sentences issued against children in line with international law," Javaid Rehman, special rapporteur for human rights in Iran, told a General Assembly human rights committee.
Execution of juvenile convicts violates international law and contravenes the Convention of the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Rehman said five individuals convicted of having committed murder as minors have been put to death this year in Iran. The most recent, Zeinab Sekaanvand, was executed three weeks ago. She was accused of killing her husband in 2012 when she was 17.
"Claims that she was coerced into confessing to the killing, had been beaten following her arrest and was a victim of domestic violence were reportedly not adequately examined during her trial," the special rapporteur said.
Iran not alone
Iran is by far the leader among a handful of countries — which include Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, South Sudan and Yemen — that have executed minors in the past decade, according to the Death Penalty Information Center website.
Rehman said the Iranian executions continue despite amendments in 2013 to the Islamic Penal Code that allow judges to give alternate sentences for juvenile offenders in certain circumstances.
He said there were "numerous" other juvenile offenders on death row in Iran.
The Iranian government says it has established a task force that will deal with the protection of the rights of children and adolescents, and Rehman has urged it to address the situation of juveniles on death row.
The report from Rehman, a law professor at Brunel University London, was his first since he took up his post in July. He has not yet visited Iran but has requested that authorities allow him to have unhindered access to the country.
He expressed a series of concerns about human rights in Iran, where for nearly a year the country has seen a wave of protests fueled by a flagging economy, high unemployment, the rising cost of living and social discontent.
?At the start of the demonstrations last December, numerous arrests were made, and at least 22 people were killed during a security crackdown. Media workers have also been harassed and intimidated.
"I remain concerned about the fate of those arrested during the protests, and call upon the government to ensure that all those imprisoned for peacefully exercising their freedom of opinion and expression are released," Rehman said.
The situation of women and girls also warrants improvement. One issue that has been in the spotlight is the mandatory veiling of women.
"Any form of coercion on women violates their rights," Rehman said. "So, enforcement and forced dress code, thereby, is contrary to international human rights law."
The Iranian government rejects the concept of the special rapporteur's mandate, but provides some cooperation with his office. Speaking at the meeting where Rehman presented his report, the Iranian representative said the exercise was "counterproductive" and was about "pressure, not cooperation."
The special rapporteur reported that use of the death penalty in drug-trafficking cases was down substantially. He welcomed the development, noting that a change in the law had downgraded penalties for some drug offenses from capital punishment to prison terms. This year, only two drug cases have resulted in executions, a major drop from 2017, when 213 individuals were executed.