Iran: Revoke Death Sentence in Juvenile Case
Dubious Conviction Based on Recanted Testimony Requires Re-Trial
Iranian authorities should immediately prevent the execution of Makwan Mouloudzadeh and commute his death sentence, Human Rights Watch said today. Mouloudzadeh, 20, was sentenced to death in May by a court ruling on questionable evidence for a crime supposedly committed when he was a 13-year-old child.
On May 25, Branch Seven of the Penal Court of the city of Kermanshah sentenced Makwan Mouloudzadeh to death on charges of raping three boys as a 13-year-old. The court handed down the conviction despite retractions on the part of his accusers during the trial and various apparent violations of Iran’s criminal procedure law.
“Makwan Mouloudzadeh faces death for crimes supposedly committed as a 13-year-old, which even his accusers admit never occurred,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Ayatollah Shahrudi, the head of the Judiciary, needs to act now to ensure that his death sentence is revoked and Mouloudzadeh gets a new trial.”
A journalist in Iran who has followed the case and spoken to Mouloudzadeh’s father told Human Rights Watch that the authorities have determined the place where Mouloudzadeh is to be hanged in public, indicating that his execution may be imminent.
In September 2006, three men complained to police in the northwestern town of Paveh that Mouloudzadeh had raped them seven years earlier. The police arrested Mouloudzadeh, and then humiliated him by shaving his head, placing him on a donkey, and parading him around the town.
Iranian laws regarding “crimes of chastity” such as rape require that the office of the public prosecutor send the case for complete investigation to the penal court, where the judge may question the accusers and arrange for examination by a physician.
Saeed Eghbali, Mouloudzadeh’s lawyer, told the Iranian press that the office of the public prosecutor defied these laws, carried out investigations on its own, and took the case to court, where the judge refused to accept the accusers’ retractions.
During court proceedings, Mouloudzadeh claimed that all confessions he had made about the alleged crimes were false and coerced. The judge also refused to accept Mouloudzadeh’s statements about being forced to admit to crimes he had not committed and did not dismiss the case.
Under Iranian law, “crimes of chastity” such as rape are sent directly to the country’s Supreme Court for final review. On July 19, Iran’s Supreme Court approved the death sentence, which may be carried out at any time.
Iran leads the world in executing juvenile offenders – persons under 18 at the time of the crime – and is known to have executed two juvenile offenders already this year. Syed Mohammad Reza Mousavi Shirazi, 20, was executed in Adel Abd prison in the city of Shiraz on April 22, 2007 for a murder he was found to have committed when he was 16. Sa`id Qanbar Zahi was executed in Zahedan on May 27, 2007 for a crime he was found to have committed when he was 17.
Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all circumstances because of its cruel and inhumane nature. In particular, in imposing sentences of death on people for crimes committed before the age of 18, Iran flouts clear and specific human rights obligations. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, both of which Iran has ratified, bar the imposition of the death penalty for such offenses. These provisions reflect the reality that children are different from adults. They lack the experience, judgment, maturity, and restraint of an adult.
Iranian officials claim that legislation pending in parliament since July 2006 would end executions of juvenile offenders. In fact, the legislation would only offer the possibility of reduced sentences in a small minority of cases.