UN Report: Child Rights Abuses

On January 29, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child issued a report urging Iran to reform its laws on executions of minors and several other issues. Iran executes youth who committed a crime while under age 18, in violation of international standards. The age of criminal responsibility is nine lunar years for girls and 15 for boys. The Committee expressed serious concern about reports of increasing numbers of girls being forced into marriage at 10 and below. The following are excerpts from the report.
The Committee expresses grave concern about the persisting discrimination against girls in the State party’s legislation and in practice in many aspects of life, including the discriminatory treatment of girls in family relations, criminal justice system, property rights, compensation for physical injury, among others. The Committee is particularly concerned that under the State party’s legislation there is an obligatory male guardianship over girls, which is incompatible with the Convention. The Committee is further concerned that gender stereotypes and patriarchal values place severe limitations on girls’ enjoyment of their rights under the Convention.
The Committee urges the State party to revise its legislation in order to ensure that girls enjoy the same rights and entitlements as boys in all aspects of life, especially in family relations, criminal and civil justice system and property rights, and take measures to eliminate any forms of discrimination in practice. It also urges the State party to carry out awareness raising activities with a view to changing patriarchal values and gender stereotypes, which undermine girls’ rights.
The Committee is also concerned about the continuous discrimination against children belonging to religious minorities, especially Bahai’ children and Sunni children, as well as children who belong to minority ethnic and linguistic groups, children born out of wedlock and to a certain extent, asylum seeking and refugee children. Furthermore, it is concerned that children who belong to the LGBTI group face continuous discrimination because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or identity and that the same sex sexual behaviour of adolescents above the actual age of criminal responsibility is criminalized and punished with penalties ranging from flogging to death penalty.
The Committee recommends that the State party take effective measures, including accountability, to put an end to discrimination against religious, ethnic and linguistic minorities, children born out of wedlock and asylum seeking and refugee children and ensure that those responsible for any forms of discrimination against such groups are held accountable. Furthermore, the Committee recommends that the State party decriminalize same sex relations and take measures to eliminate discrimination against LGBTI children.
Right to life, survival and development
The Committee takes note of the Supreme Court Order 737 (2015) and article 91 of the Islamic Penal Code of 2013 providing for a possibility of retrial and exempting, in special conditions, children below the age of 18 years from hudud and qisas punishments involving death sentence “if they do not realize the nature of the crime committed or its prohibition, or if there is uncertainty about their full mental development, according to their age” and applying correctional measures instead. However, the Committee expresses serious concern that such exemptions are under full discretion of judges who are allowed, but not mandated to seek forensic expert opinion and that several persons have been re-sentenced to death following such re-trials. The Committee deplores that the State party continues to execute children and those who have committed a crime while under 18 years of age, despite its previous recommendations and numerous criticisms by human rights treaty bodies.
The Committee strongly urges the State party as a matter of utmost priority to:
(a)        End the execution of children and persons who committed a crime under the age of 18;
(b)       Take legislative measures to abolish the death sentence for the crimes of hudud and qisas for persons who committed a crime under the age of 18 years in the Islamic Penal Code without leaving any discretion to the courts; and
c)         Commute all existing sentences for offenders on death row who committed a crime under the age of 18 years.
The Committee is seriously concerned that article 301 combined with article 612 of the Islamic Penal Code (2013), provides for lighter punishment if a murder is committed by a father or a paternal grandfather of the victim (“crimes committed in the name of so called honour”). In such cases, judges have a full discretion and can even decide to release the perpetrator without any punishment paving a way for total impunity for killing one’s child.
The Committee strongly urges the State party to repeal article 301 of the Islamic Penal Code, and ensure that all perpetrators of murders committed in the name of so-called “honour” receive penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes. The Committee urges the State party to carry out prompt and thorough investigations into all these cases, prosecute perpetrators and ensure that those found guilty are given appropriate sentences.
The Committee is concerned that a number of children have been killed or wounded due to landmines placed during the Iran Iraq war in Western Azerbaijan, Ilam, Kurdistan, Kermanshah and Khuzestan.
The Committee urges the State party to clear its entire territory from landmines and all remnants of the war as soon as possible with a support of international organizations.

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