The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release


Iran: Rescind Execution Order of Juvenile Offender

Mohammad Reza Haddadi to be Executed July 7 for Crime Allegedly Committed at Age 15


The Iranian judiciary should immediately suspend plans to execute
Mohammad Reza Haddadi and permanently revoke his death sentence, Human
Rights Watch said today. Haddadi, now 23, is scheduled to be executed on
July 7, 2010, for a murder he allegedly committed when he was just 15
years old. International law prohibits the imposition of the death
sentence on child offenders.

On July 4, Haddadi's family received a summons indicating that their
son is scheduled to be executed on July 7. This is at least the third
time prison authorities have notified Haddadi's family of his imminent
execution. On May 27, 2009, Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi, who was then
head of the judiciary, intervened at the last minute and halted the
execution. The government rescheduled Haddadi's execution for July 16,
2009, but the judiciary spared his life again.

"Haddadi's execution order is not just unlawful - it is cruel and
inhuman," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights
Watch. "It is also needlessly cruel to his family that they have had to
endure constant reminders during the past seven years that their child
is at imminent risk of execution."

Under Iranian law, majority is attained at the age of puberty as
stipulated by Sharia law. Under Iran's 1991 Civil Code, puberty is
attainted at 15 lunar years (14 years and 5 months) for boys and 9 lunar
years (8 years and 8 months) for girls, allowing judges to sentence
children at these ages as adults. However, Iran is a party to the United
Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which explicitly
prohibit sentencing individuals to death for crimes committed under age

On January 6, 2004, a court in Shiraz found Haddadi and his
co-defendants guilty of kidnapping and hiding the body of Mohammad
Bagher Rahmat in an attempt to steal the victim's car. In addition, the
court convicted Haddadi of Rahmat's murder. Rahmat's body was burned and
buried at the side of a road. Mohammad Mostafaei, Haddadi's lawyer,
said his client initially confessed to suffocating Rahmat with a belt
after his co-defendants had struck Rahmat over the head with a stone and
locked him in the trunk of the car. Later, on October 30, 2003, Haddadi
again confessed to the killing during a court session.

After Haddadi's family received the latest summons, Human Rights
Watch spoke to Haddadi's father who told Human Rights Watch that he was
en route to Shiraz to visit his son before the order is carried out and
indicated that he had spoken to his son once during the past few weeks.
He called on the authorities to spare his son's life and retry him in
light of strong evidence suggesting his innocence and said his son's
co-defendants manipulated him into taking the blame for the murder by
promising that they would give his family money in return.

At the time of the murder, Haddadi was the only one under age 18 who
was implicated in the crime.

In his blog, Mostafaei indicated that when his client realized that
he had been fooled by his co-defendants, he wrote a letter to the court
informing it that he had taken no part in the murder and had only
accepted blame because of his co-defendants' false promises. Despite
this, Branch 24 of the Supreme Court confirmed Haddadi's death sentence
on July 3, 2005. Mostafaei has also cited other evidence indicating that
Haddadi was not guilty of the crime.

"The allegation that Haddadi was manipulated into taking the blame
precisely because he was younger than the other co-defendants should
provide compelling reason of itself to suspend his execution" Whitson

Iran leads all countries of the world in executing juvenile
offenders. Since January 2005, only four other countries are known to
have executed juvenile offenders - Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Pakistan, and
Yemen. The judiciary issued Haddadi's death sentence despite a 2004
order by then-Head of the Judiciary Ayatollah Hashemi Shahrudi banning
death sentences for individuals convicted of crimes committed under the
age of 18.

Iran executed at least four juvenile offenders in 2009 and eight in
2008. According to human rights lawyers in Iran, more than a 100
juvenile offenders are currently on death row.

"Regardless of guilt or innocence, no one should be executed for a
crime committed as a child," Whitson said. "The Iranian judiciary should
show Haddadi mercy and abide by Iran's international obligations
banning executions for crimes committed by children."

Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.