Judiciary and juveniles; religion keeps the noose at work

Friday, April 08th, 2016

Iran holds an unpleasant record.

It is the number one country in the world for sentencing juveniles (under 18s) to death by hanging. After the juvenile reaches 18, the sentence is often carried out.

According to the human rights group Amnesty International, between 2005 and 2015 Iran executed 73 young people who had been convicted as juveniles. The method of execution is hanging.

At present there are at least 106 people on death row who were sentenced before they turned 18. Amnesty has located 49 of these convicts; some have been on death row for seven years.

Why does Iran’s judicial system allow the death penalty to be applied to juveniles?

One answer is religion. Shia Islam defines childhood as ending with puberty: nine years old for girls, fifteen for boys. Another answer is the ancient custom of retaliation supported by Sharia law. The fate of a convicted murderer in Iran is ultimately in the hands of the victim’s family, not the courts. The family have the right to either demand the death penalty, or accept ‘blood money'. So if a juvenile commits a murder and the victim’s family demands execution, the courts are obliged to act.

However, there is much unease among some officials and clerics over Iran’s infamy for sentencing children to the noose. There is unease because the religious texts are not clear on this matter. And unease because the same law that says a nine year old is too young to open a bank account, says the same nine year old can be sentenced to death. Those with unease have an argument to win.

Pray for:

  • 106 sentenced to death when they were children, now in prison.
  • Opponents of sentencing children to death to win the argument
  • Sadegh Larijani, the head of judiciary, to support the end of child death sentences