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[15 May 2015] - A 24-year-old man is at imminent risk of execution, for a crime which took place while he was below 18 years of age, despite the fact that his case is currently under judicial review, said Amnesty International, urging the Iranian authorities to halt all plans to implement the sentence.
The organisation has been warned that the execution of Hamid Ahmadi, who was convicted of fatally stabbing a man during a group fight that took place when he was 16 years old, could be imminent even though the Supreme Court has confirmed that an application for a review of his case is currently being processed.
“The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, but it is particularly troubling that in this case Iran is again set to violate the clear prohibition in international law of executing those who were children at the time of the alleged crime. If the execution goes ahead while the case is under review at Iran’s highest court, it would also be an appalling miscarriage of justice,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.
“The Iranian authorities should halt all plans to carry out this execution immediately. They must allow justice to run its course without resorting to the death penalty.”
Hamid Ahamdi was sentenced to death in March 2010 by Branch 11 of the Criminal Court of Appeal in Gilan Province. The sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court in November 2010. A provision on juvenile sentencing in Iran’s 2013 Penal Code has, however, allowed Hamid Ahmadi’s lawyer to submit an application for a judicial review based on his young age at the time of the alleged crime.
Amnesty International is calling on the authorities to commute Hamid Ahmadi’s death sentence. If he is found guilty after a re-trial, in proceedings that ensure the strictest compliance with international fair trial standards (including the specific safeguards and principles of juvenile justice) he should face a punishment consistent with Iran’s international human rights obligations which exclude resort to the death penalty.
Iran is a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which strictly prohibits the imposition of the death penalty against persons who were below 18 years of age at the time of the crime. However, Iran continues to impose the death penalty against juvenile offenders and execute them after they pass the age of 18.
“Hamid Ahmadi’s death sentence contradicts, once again, Iran’s repeated claims that it does not execute juvenile offenders and displays the authorities’ blatant disregard for one of the clearest prohibitions on the use of the death penalty,” said Said Boumedouha.
Hamid Ahmadi was initially sentenced to death in August 2009. Later that year the sentence was overturned by Iran’s Supreme Court and sent back for re-trial because of doubts over testimony of key witnesses.
During his retrial Hamid Ahmadi retracted a “confession” he had made while in police custody that he had stabbed the deceased victim to his chest. He stated that he had made that statement as officials had threatened to send him back to the notorious Police Investigation Unit (Agahi) if he did not admit to the crime.
However, the court rejected this complaint and does not appear to have investigated the allegations of coercion, including the threat of torture or other ill-treatment, which are widely used in the Iranian police investigation units. Nor did the court raise concerns that a minor was interrogated without having access to a lawyer - which is another violation of international standards for a fair trial and juvenile justice.
Hamid Ahmadi was convicted of “intentional murder” on the basis of the principle of “knowledge of the judge”. This is a provision in Iranian law that allows judges to make their own subjective and possibly arbitrary determination of guilt based on circumstantial rather than conclusive evidence.
“Instead of sending another young man to the gallows after a flawed judicial process, the Iranian authorities should be launching an independent investigation into the allegation that Hamid Ahmadi was forced to “confess” and incriminate himself,” said Said Boumedouha.
Iran is among a handful of countries that still execute juvenile offenders. Amnesty International has received reports of at least 72 executions of juvenile offenders in Iran since 2005, including in 2014 alone, at least 14 executions of people who were under 18 at the time of the crime. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is scheduled to review Iran’s implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in a Working Group press-session in June 2015 followed by a review session in January 2016.