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UN experts urge Iran to halt execution of juvenile offender

Hossein Shahbazi was 17 when he was arrested for fatally stabbing a classmate and was sentenced to death in a trial that reportedly relied on torture-tainted confessions.
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A group of UN human rights experts urged Iran on Thursday to halt the execution of a young man arrested for murder as a minor. 

Hossein Shahbazi was 17 years old when he was arrested for fatally stabbing a classmate during a fight between a group of four people in 2018.

The UN-appointed experts, whose work addresses human rights in Iran, child rights, executions and torture, said in a statement that Shahbazi was denied access to a lawyer while he was interrogated by police for 11 days. 

The trial of Shahbazi, now 20, relied on confessions obtained under torture and other ill-treatment, the UN experts said. A criminal court in Fars province sentenced him to death for murder in January 2020.

His execution was scheduled for Jan. 5 but postponed. It has since been delayed several times, causing “irreversible psychological pain and suffering to him and his family,” the experts said. They warned Shahbazi “remains at risk of imminent execution.”

“We urge the Iranian authorities to immediately and permanently halt the execution of Hossein Shahbazi and annul his death sentence, in line with international human rights law,” the UN experts said in a statement. “Iran must observe its international obligations by imposing de jure and de facto moratorium on the execution of juvenile offenders once and for all."

More than 85 juvenile offenders are currently on death row in Iran in violation of international human rights law. 

In November, Iran executed a man convicted of murdering his girlfriend when he was a teenager, despite an international outcry over his death sentence and a trial that rights groups said was “grossly unfair.” In August, Iranian authorities reportedly secretly executed Sajad Sanjari, who was 15 at the time of his alleged crime.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, of which Iran is a state party, bans the use of capital punishment for those who were under 18 at the time their crime. In 2020, Iran executed at least three people in violation of that convention, said Amnesty International. 

According to the group, Iran carried out at least 246 recorded death sentences in 2020, making it one of the world’s most frequent executioners. 

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