In the wake of the agreement on limiting its nuclear programs, Iran has been busy trying to present itself as open to the modern world and re-establishing economic and political relations with the West. To that end, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has embarked on a tour of European capitals. He started with Italy and the Vatican, where on Jan. 26 he met with Pope Francis.
But according to a recent report by Amnesty International, Iran’s juvenile justice system reveals another reality. Iran is ranked among the leading countries in the world in executions of juveniles. Though Iran had pledged over 20 years ago to eliminate the practice of applying the death penalty to juveniles under the age of 18, the evidence shows otherwise. In the 10-year period from 2005 to 2015, over 73 juveniles were executed by the state. Since ratifying the 1994 Convention of the Rights of the Child, Iran has claimed that it has “modernized” its juvenile justice system. Cynically, the Iranians claim they do not execute underage juveniles; in practice the state waits until they reach age 21 before doing so. Currently, there are 160 juveniles on death row in Iran.
According to Michael G. Bochenek, senior counsel of the children’s rights division of Human Rights Watch, Iran is a “world leader” in juvenile executions. According to Amnesty International, other countries in this “class” are China, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The United States did not eliminate the death penalty for juveniles until 2005. When will Iran do so?