UN ‘dismayed’ by looming execution of juvenile offender in Iran

Hossein Shahbazi's confession was obtained during a lengthy, torture-tainted interrogation, the UN says

Hossein Shahbazi faces the death penalty for a murder he committed while he was 17. AFP

UN experts said on Thursday they were dismayed by a decision in Iran to proceed with the execution of Hossein Shahbazi, who was convicted of fatally stabbing a classmate in a mass brawl when he was 17.

Javaid Rehman, an expert on Iran, and other UN investigators, urged Tehran to halt the execution of Shahbazi, now aged 20.

International law “unequivocally forbids the imposition of the death penalty on persons below 18 years of age”, the experts said, but Iran currently has at least 85 juvenile offenders on death row.

“We urge the Iranian authorities to immediately and permanently halt the execution of Hossein Shahbazi and annul his death sentence, in line with international human rights law,” the experts said in a statement.

Shahbazi, who was convicted and sentenced to death in January 2020, is currently being held in Adelabad prison in Shiraz.

His conviction was based in part on confessions that he said he made after being tortured and subjected to other ill treatment at the detention centre during an 11-day interrogation.

He was denied access to a lawyer and was unable to see members of his family, the UN experts said.

Several others involved in the fracas were arrested and provided confessions but were not sentenced to death, human rights group Amnesty International reported.

Shahbazi was set to be executed on January 5, though this was delayed.

The execution has been scheduled and then postponed four times, causing “irreversible psychological pain and suffering to him and his family”, added the experts' statement.

“Iran must observe its international obligations by imposing … moratorium on the execution of juvenile offenders once and for all,” the experts added.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said last year that numerous UN bodies and experts had made it clear “time and again” that the death penalty for crimes committed by children was strictly prohibited.

Updated: January 13th 2022, 3:29 PM