Letter of the children's Lawyer to Iran's parliament


SCE Campaign
by SCE Campaign

In the name of God,              فارسي

To the head of the Islamic Parliament and its honorable members,
With Respectful Greetings,

It has been over four years that the proposed bill regarding the children and juveniles has been sent to the Parliament and at the moment it is under review at the legal and judiciary commission. Many human rights activists and lawyers inside Iran as well as international institutions and organizations such as UNICEF, Amnesty International and European Union, are awaiting the urgent passage of this proposed bill and the annulment of the death penalty for children under 18. I am the lawyer of 14 individuals whose age at the time of alleged commitment of crimes were less than 18 and have been sentenced to death and are now facing inevitable executions. I hereby express my concern about their imminent death penalty and the denial of their human right with respect to "the execution of children under the age of 18". I ask for the immediate ratification of the proposed bill based on, the age of legal responsibility of children with respect to determination of death penalty, the International conventions and the common practice by the vast majority of countries.

According to the unofficial statistics there are about 70 persons sentenced to death whose ages at the time of committing the crimes were under 18 and their sentences have been approved with all the possible legal procedures having been exhausted. Some have passed the final execution approval process of the honorable head of the judiciary (e.g.: Sattar Shiri in Rajai Shahr prison, Mousavi in Shiraz- Adelabad prison and Hamid Reza Tork in Hamedan prison) whom all have already been executed. Nevertheless one of the welcomed and acceptable practices of the legal and judiciary institutions as well as the view of the honorable head of the judiciary, has been that of seeking pardon from the parents of the victim, which in many cases has been fruitful and the child anticipating execution has been saved such as in the case of Sina Paymard where after asking for 1.5 billion Rials (apx. 150,000 dollars) by the parents of the victim, a new life was granted to him (Sina). It should be noted that the larger portion of this money was paid through donations and if the money was not donated , noone knows what could have awaited Sina.

This is happening while in most International conventions and documents, the death penalty for children under the age 18 has been prohibited. According to the article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child : "[No] capital punishment. shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age" and according to the article one of the Convention on the Rights of the Child: "a child means every human being below the age of eighteen years unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier". However there is one exception to this point and that is the prohibition of the death penalty for persons under the age 18 as the abovementioned article stated.

Another important and binding International document which Iran has also ratified in 1975 without any pre-conditions, is the International covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article 6 of the accord reads: "Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law..." and thereafter regarding taking away the right to life of children, item 5 of article 6 of the accord establishes that "Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age". It was because of this accord that the vast majority of the countries in the world abolished the death penalty for children under the age of 18 and Iran is one of the very few countries where courts still carry the sentencing and the execution of the death penalty for these children.

In our country based on item B, article 209 of the Islamic sharia penal code, if a girls above the age of 9 (lunar calendar) and boys above the age of 15 (lunar calendar), commits a murder even if unintentional or without criminal intent : "In cases where the accused has intentionally committed an act that resulted is the death, even if (he or she) did not intend to kill, is considered an attempted murder" and are sentenced to death and after reaching the age of 18 and delaying the execution order, they put the noose around the (children's) neck and take away their life.

From a criminology standpoint, such punishment, against the most fundamental human rights, carries two separate sentences: One is to take away from the condemned the hope to continue life and the prisoner wakes up every day fearing that he may not see the next day. In other words the sentenced lives and dies hundreds of time a day, and the other is that eventually the death sentence ordered by the court and approved by the supreme court is exercised. Is it fair that a child who is still immature and incapable of adult reasoning who has unintentionally caused a death , be punished by hanging? Isn’t it better that through punishments other than death penalty, to give them a chance to rehabilitate. Without any doubts I testify that all my clients are sorry for their acts and they ask the almighty God for chance for life to spend the remainder of their life in the most humane way and by serving the society. The window of hope in their heart is so that some of them like Delara Darabi and Ali Mahin Torabi have continued their studies and have kept their cultural and artistic activities in prison.

Article 49 of the Islamic sharia code approved in 1991 excludes children from criminal responsibility and assigns their education, under the supervision of the court, to their appropriate care-takers or by request, to the correction centers. The first point of this article appreciates that "a child is someone who has not reached the adulthood age according to Sharia." This point has not established the clear age and has left it to Sharia. Given the fact that it is not acceptable that the lawmakers pass an unclear law which would give the authority to the courts to resort to article 1210 of the civil code where children above the age of 9 (lunar years) for girls and 15 (lunar year) for boys are to receive punishments exactly the same as adults, undermining International agreements and norms that Iran has also joined. For instance if a girl at the age of 10, or a boy at the age of 14 years and 11 months would commit a murder and the accusation is proven, the girl or the boy would be sentenced to death. Mohammad Latif at the age of 14 years and 11 months was taken into custody for homicide, and despite the belief of the medical experts of his lack of mental progress, he was sentenced to death and the Supreme Court also approved the sentence. Now at the age of 18 he is awaiting execution.

The important point is that none of my clients have criminal records. They have, with no intention, unwillingly and by accident, have committed homicide and they have eventually been sentenced (to death) , based on point B of article 206 of the Islamic Penal Code. Among them there have also been cases when they have not committed the act themselves and due to young age and lack of rationality and reasoning have confessed to the crime. For example Mohammad Jahedi, born on 21st of September 1985, from Fasa County in the Province of Fars, took the blame for the murder of Mohammad Moradi, and has been in Adelabad prison of Shiraz for more than 5 years. On 1st of August 2001 Jahedi and two of his friends, Akbar Mousavi and Mohammad Moradi, went to the suburbs of the city of Fasa for fun and sightseeing. On the way back Akbar and Mohammad Moradi started a quarrel and Akbar stabbed the knife that he was holding into the back of Mohammad Moradi which killed him. The (remaining) two ran away and after the arrest , Mohammad Jahedi took the responsibility for the murder. Later Akbar also ended up in prison because of another quarrel, where he confessed in prison to his cellmates that he committed the crime . Unfortunately Akbar was killed after a while and the 4th division of the criminal court sentenced Jahedi to death based on three line items where the court ruling said : "regarding the accusation of murder of the deceased Mohammad Moradi (17) by Mohammad Jahedi (16), according to the legal medical investigation, the review of the police report and the confession of the accused, his guilt is certain, and therefore the court, according to article 205 of the Islamic penal code, sentences him to the death penalty." This case , because of the appeal by the accused, was sent to branch 34 of the Superior Court, and the members of the branch after investigating the file and in order to resolve some observed shortcomings sent the case back to the same branch. The mentioned branch stated that the verdict had been issued, taking into the consideration the confession of the accused and the knowledge of the judge from all the obvious considerations and facts of the case. But consequentially branch 34 of the Supreme Court was closed and the case was sent to branch 27, where the judges without paying attention to the given reasons and the appeals of the accused, approved the verdict. Through investigation and research of cases involving children it has been discovered that there are many such cases, therefore equity and justice dictates that more attention must be given to children under 18 who are more gullible and who can easily be fooled in the admittance of a crime. The chance of a second life shall be given to them because there are possibilities that they did not commit the crimes, and because our laws regarding judging quarrels in criminal cases have some fundamental flaws and such verdicts are issued with uncertainty and doubts. Additionally majority of the crimes committed by children are not the results of organized plots, intentional or elaborate, but mostly because of jokes or fights that have suddenly occurred.

On 24 of September 2007 I drafted a letter addressed to the head of the judiciary and respectfully asked him to order a halt to carrying of the execution of those who have committed a crime before the age of 18 until the finalization of the draft law regarding the crimes of children and teenagers, which has been submitted to the parliament in February of 2004 and to date has been set aside. I have not yet received any reply to my letter. Therefore, given my responsibility for the lives of my clients and other children accused of crimes, I am pleading to you, the representatives of people, that considering the importance and urgency of this matter; to take all the required measures such that this draft law abolishing the death penalty for children under 18, be presented as soon as possible in the open session of the parliament and to be passed so that we no longer witness to the execution of children who unintentionally or unknowingly may have committed a crime.

With respectful regards,
Mohammad Mostafai,
Lawyer for many convicted to death



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Good luck

by Anon (not verified) on

What can I say, other than thank you Mr. Mohammad Mostafavi, thank you all the people insisde and outside of Iran who are trying to do something to help these kids ... all kids.
Also, thank you our Ben Madadi for this translation.
( let's set aside the fact that I sometimes don't agree with your opinions), you well deserve thanks for your input.
It would have taken me a year and a half to do this translation. And that's the honest truth. Translating is an art in itself.
I did what I couldfrom afar , but it seems like so little compared to those truly involved in saving these chldren, but I guess every little bit counts.
Good luck everyone.

Ben Madadi


by Ben Madadi on

Although I'm no Jewish I have some resemblances to the streotype Jewish... I don't give much, or enough, to the needy, but I try to do as much as I can, at least giving some of my time. But my translation sucks :P


Thank you Ben,

by Rosie T.. (not verified) on

for all your efforts.