Iran: It’s Time to Scrap Outdated Laws Exposing Children to Torture
September 5, 2015
A group of thieves including children publically humiliated
In 2005, the Committee expressed concern “at the existing poor quality of the rules and practices in the juvenile justice system, reflected, inter alia, in the lack of statistical data, the limited use of specialized juvenile courts and judges, the low age of criminal responsibility, the lack of adequate alternatives to custodial sentences, and the imposition of torture, cruel and inhuman punishment and in particular of the death penalty.”[vi] The Committees recent List of Issues indicates again a lack of statistical data and information on the situation of children, government policies, and their outcomes.
Iran has taken some positive steps in recent years towards addressing some of the Committee’s concerns. The new Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure provide for punishments other than flogging for individuals below the age of 15 and open the door to lawyers during interrogation for juvenile offenders except in cases involving national security, which include political offenses. It also makes it possible for judges to avoid issuing flogging or death sentences to children between the age of 15 and 18, if the judge believes they lack the maturity to understand the gravity of their act.
The Judiciary has however reacted to the new laws by proposing amendments to undermine the limited improvements and has not committed to fully implement the new laws. This lack of clarity and safeguards leaves children dependent on the good will of judges, some of whom have repeatedly shown to have none.
Iran has still a long way to go to fulfill its obligations under the CRC by establishing justice procedures for children that are “focused upon rehabilitation of the child rather than on punishment or retribution.” It is hard to see how degrading punishments such as floggings and executions can help children’s rehabilitation.
Voices opposing harsh punishment for juvenile offenders and calling for change in the age of criminal responsibility and special training and dedicated police forces for child offenders[vii] are not rare in Iran. Over the years, experts, officials, clerics, lawyers, and civil society members have noted the failure of corporal punishment as deterrent and most importantly, in helping the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders[viii]. But punishments amounting to torture for children remain on the books. What seems to be missing is the political will to do the right thing by eliminating these punishments and ensuring that children’s dignity and well being are protected by the state rather than endangered by its laws.
Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation
September 5, 2015
[i] Note 1 of the article 1210 Iran’s Civil Code (1981); articles 146 and 147 of Iran’s 2013 Islamic Penal Code
[ii] Paragraph 46, General Comment No.10
[iii] In his first report to the United Nations General Assembly, on 30 August 2005, Manfred Nowak, then Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, called on states to “abolish all forms of judicial and administrative corporal punishment without delay.” He pointed out that the term “lawful sanctions” in article 1, paragraph 1, of the Convention against Torture must be interpreted as referring both to domestic and international law. On the basis of the review of jurisprudence of international and regional human rights mechanisms, the Special Rapporteur concludes that “any form of corporal punishment is contrary to the prohibition of torture and other cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” and “States cannot invoke provisions of domestic law to justify the violation of their human rights obligations under international law, including the prohibition of corporal punishment.”
[iv] Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 24 CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.6 (1994), para.19.
[v] CRC/C/GC/8* 2 March 2007 Original: ENGLISH COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD Forty-second session Geneva, 15 May-2 June 2006 GENERAL COMMENT No. 8 (2006) The right of the child to protection from corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishment (arts. 19; 28, para. 2; and 37, inter alia)
[vi] 28 January 2005, Unedited version, CRC/C/15/Add.254, paras.44, 45, 46, 47(a,b), 71 and 72(b). http://www.endcorporalpunishment.org
[vii] Article 31 of the new Code of Criminal Procedure