UN urges Iran to halt execution of teenage ‘killer’

Hossein Shahbazi faces gallows for crime he is accused of committing as a child

UN experts on Thursday called on Iran to stop the execution of a man for a murder committed when he was a teenager.

Hossein Shahbazi is due to be hanged on Monday after the death of another teen in a group fight when he was 17.

The UN’s investigator on Iran, Javaid Rehman, and others said in a statement that they were “deeply concerned for" Mr Shahbazi's life.

They were “particularly disturbed at reports indicating that the execution is planned to go ahead and that it may even be carried out earlier than scheduled", they said.

Mr Shahbazi, now 20, was in January last year sentenced to death for stabbing his classmate.

Police in Shiraz, in Fars province, held him for 11 days without access to a lawyer and reportedly tortured him until they extracted a confession.

He was then moved to a juvenile lock-up and held there for several more days before his mother was allowed to visit. He had bruises on his face and had lost weight.

Several others involved in the fight were arrested and made confessions but have not been sentenced to death, campaigners say.

Iran’s Supreme Court has yet to rule on a request for a retrial of Mr Shahbazi, who is in Adelabad prison in Shiraz.

Because of his age at the time of his 2018 arrest, Mr Shahbazi should be spared the death penalty under global rules, said Mr Rehman and other UN officials, Morris Tidball-Binz and Mikiko Otani.

Iran continues to use the death penalty for crimes committed by people under the age of 18, despite signing a UN deal banning the practice in 1968.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights says: “The sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below 18 years of age and shall not be carried out on pregnant women."

The UN experts said: “We call on the Iranian authorities to honour their obligations under international law and immediately halt the execution of Hossein Shahbazi."

Amnesty International said at least three juveniles were executed in 2020 and scores more are on death row.

Iran executed 246 people last year, the second-highest number for any country.

“The imposition of the death penalty in Iran contrasts with the current international trend of abolishing the death penalty and is contrary to its prohibition against child offenders,” the UN experts said.

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