Forms of Violence: **Death penalty**

Imposing the death penalty on people under the age of 18 is forbidden by international law. Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child says States Parties must ensure that: “Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below 18 years of age.”

Moreover, Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) also states that the sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below 18 years of age. With respect to regional treaties, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (Article 5), the American Convention on Human Rights (Article 4), and Protocol No. 13 to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms all prohibit the death penalty for juveniles.

Nonetheless, although widely condemned and illegal, some States still impose capital punishment for crimes committed by children. Between 1990 and 2006, when the UN Study on Violence Against Children was drafted, Amnesty International recorded 39 executions of child offenders in eight countries - China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the United States (US), and Yemen. In March 2005, the US Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty could no longer be imposed on individuals for crimes committed before the age of 18 (UNVC, 2006: 198). 

Between 1 January 2005 and 2 September 2008, the following states are known to have collectively executed 32 juvenile offenders: Iran (26), Saudi Arabia (2), Sudan (2), Pakistan (1), and Yemen (1) (HRW, 2008). Iran kills the largest number of children and, along with Saudi Arabia, explicitly condones the death penalty. Amnesty International reported that, in April 2010, at least 139 child offenders were under death sentences. According to Human Rights Watch, in Sudan, Yemen and Pakistan “juvenile offenders are at risk of being treated as adults in capital cases when they lack birth registration or other documents to prove their age at the time of the crime, when the court of first instance does not record their age, or when they lack competent legal assistance at crucial points during arrest and trial” (HRW, 2008: 2).

What can be done about it?

 In September 2008, CRIN helped launch a campaign to end the execution of juvenile offenders. Read more about the campaign here.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child exerts pressure on States to end death sentences for crimes committed as children through the issue of Concluding Observations. For example, in 2003 it called on Bangladesh to expressly prohibit the imposition of the death penalty for children, in 2006 it called on Saudi Arabia to “immediately suspend execution of all death penalties imposed on persons for having committed crime before age of 18”, and  in 2010 it asked Nigeria “to review the files of all prisoners on death row for crimes committed before the age of 18.”

For more resources on the death penalty, click here



Amnesty International (2010), Death Sentences and Executions in 2009, Amnesty International: London. Available at:

Human Rights Watch (2008), The Last Holdouts: Ending the Juvenile Death Penalty in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Pakistan, and Yemen, Human Rights Watch: New York.

UN Study on Violence Against Children (2006). Available at:




    Please note that these reports are hosted by CRIN as a resource for Child Rights campaigners, researchers and other interested parties. Unless otherwise stated, they are not the work of CRIN and their inclusion in our database does not necessarily signify endorsement or agreement with their content by CRIN.