Hassan Rouhani
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani (File image)

Iran is facing fresh attack for its dismal human rights report with a UN report along with an Amnesty International report in January, drawing flak on President Hassan Rouhani.

The issue has come under scrutiny due to a scathing U.N. report on human rights in Iran last month which highlighted what it called the “alarmingly high” rate of executions in the country, including juveniles.

That report, along with an Amnesty International report in January, spurred commentary from ordinary Iranians on social media at least some of which criticized President Hassan Rouhani for not doing more to stop the juvenile executions.

Iran has the highest rate of juvenile executions in the world, despite being a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, an international human rights treaty that forbids capital punishment for anyone under 18.

According to Amnesty International report, Iran in the past decade has executed at least 73 juvenile offenders.

Despite campaign promises made by Rouhani in 2013 to reform Iran’s human rights record, such juvenile executions have continued.

The Legal Loophole:

Juveniles have been executed regularly since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979. Under Iranian law, the age for legally defining adulthood is determined by puberty, 15 for boys and nine for girls. When there is a discrepancy between domestic law and international legal obligations, Iranian authorities have turned to domestic law.

In recent years, Iran’s judiciary generally holds off executing minors till they turn 18. For instance, Fatehma Salbehi was 17 when she allegedly murdered her husband and was executed when she turned 23.

According to the UN report, there are at least 160 minors currently on death row.

One prominent human rights activist who started a campaign to end the death penalty in Iran, Narges Mohammadi, was arrested last year on unspecified charges.

But there have been some cases where juvenile offenders have been spared the noose. A non-governmental organization called Imam Ali’s Popular Students Relief Society has had some measure of success in bringing together families of the victim and the accused. If the family of the victim agrees to forgive the accused, the execution is not carried out.

Judicial reforms were also put into place in 2013, prior to Rouhani’s taking office, which led to the retrial of a number of cases involving juvenile offenders. The sentences of the offenders were commuted in a handful of cases but in at least half a dozen cases the death sentence was upheld, according to Amnesty.

Inability to bring about any change on this controversial issue may cost Rouhani support for the presidential elections next year.