Open letter to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
Paris-Geneva, 1 August 2016
Dear Mr. High Commissioner,
I am writing to request your urgent intervention in the case of Alireza Tajiki, whose execution has been scheduled for Wednesday 3 August 2016. The authorities have asked his family to visit him for the last time.
Mr. Taijiki was 15 years old at the time of his arrest in 2012 for alleged rape and murder of his friend. He was sentenced to death primarily based on a “confession” extracted from him under torture during his initial detention in solitary confinement, even though he retracted this “confession” during his trial, stating that he had been tortured and proclaiming his innocence.
Mr. Tajiki’s execution was previously scheduled for 15 May 2016 in Adelabad prison in the city of Shiraz, but his lawyer, Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh, and a number of other supporters managed to secure a temporary stay of execution. The Supreme Court subsequently rejected the application of Ms. Sotoudeh for retrial, siding with a statement by the head of the Forensic Medicine Department of Shiraz who attested that Mr Tajiki “was fully mature” at the time of the commission of the alleged crime. In doing so, the Supreme Court ignored testimonies of 10 psychologists and psychiatrists that Ms. Sotoudeh had submitted, all of whom declared that persons younger than 18 are not “fully mature” and stated their readiness to testify in court.
Throughout his detention and trial, Mr. Tajiki was denied due process, including being denied access to a lawyer during the investigation period. After a trial that failed to meet international standards of fairness and transparency, he was sentenced to death in April 2014. A branch of the Supreme Court overturned this sentence due to lack of evidence, and sent the case back to the issuing court calling for further investigation. Nevertheless, the first-instance court re-imposed the death sentence based on the defendant’s “confessions,” without any reference to other evidence or investigation into torture allegations. In addition, the authorities refused to properly investigate information provided by Mr. Tajiki that the victim had been murdered by Mr. Reza Jaladat, the brother of a security agent in the city of Fassa, in collaboration with two other persons. Despite this gross failure to investigate, the Supreme Court upheld the second death sentence against Mr. Tajiki.
Although the 2013 Islamic Penal Code does not explicitly allow juvenile offenders sentenced to death prior to 2013 to seek retrial, in December 2015 the General Board of the Supreme Court issued a “unification jurisprudence” to allow for death-row juvenile offenders to seek retrial. However, in order to escape the death penalty, such offenders are still required by Article 91 of the Code to prove that they did not comprehend the nature and/or prohibition of the committed offence or that their level of “mental development” was still that of a juvenile’s. Despite Mr. Tajiki’s lawyer having presented 10 expert testimonies indicating that due to Mr. Tajiki’s age at the time of the alleged crime his level of “mental development” was not that of an adult, the Supreme Court nevertheless upheld his death sentence.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has been the biggest executioner of juvenile offenders worldwide for some years. The usual practice in Iran is to keep the alleged juvenile offenders in prison until they reach the age of 18 and then execute them. Nevertheless, several defendants have been executed even before reaching the age of 18.
International human rights organisations have documented the executions of at least 73 juveniles since 2005, including four in 2015, 13 in 2014, eight in 2013, four in 2012 and seven in 2011. On 19 October 2015, the UN Secretary General expressed his deep sadness regarding the execution of two juvenile offenders the week before in Iran. According to the Secretary General’s report to the Human Rights Council in February 2015, at least 160 juvenile offenders were reportedly on death row as of December 2014. (A/HRC/28/26)
Recalling that Iran is a State party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, I urge you to:
immediately intervene and ask the Iranian authorities to suspend Alireza Tajiki’s scheduled execution on 3 August and order a fair retrial without recourse to the death penalty, and to fully investigate all the allegations about torture and commission of the crime;
urge Iran to repeal all death sentences against juveniles and order retrials in all cases of death-row juveniles, in compliance with its obligations under international human rights law, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and
call on UN member states, and in particular those States with economic and political ties with Iran, to use their influence to insist that Iran stop the practice of juvenile executions.
• The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mr. Ahmed Shaheed
• The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Mr. Christof Heyns
• The Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Mr. Juan Mendez
• Members of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child
• Members of the UN Human Rights Committee