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UN independent rights expert decries executions of juveniles in Iran

UN independent rights expert decries executions of juveniles in Iran

An independent United Nations human rights expert today criticized Iran’s use of the death penalty against juveniles, saying it is probably the only country in the world that does this systematically.

Speaking to reporters after briefing a General Assembly committee, Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, estimated that there are at least 75 juveniles in prison “on death row basically” in Iran now.

The Government “never responds to any communications I send them,” he said.

In addition, he said at least 173 people have been executed for offences such as adultery, unlawful sexual relations and homosexuality, while laws that allow for stoning to death in these cases are “barbaric by any standards.”

He also spoke out against the use of the death penalty in Singapore, pointing out that the more than 400 people executed there since 1990 – the highest per capita rate in the world – had been executed based on a “mandatory” death penalty that took no account of extenuating circumstances.

Asked about a trip he plans to take to the United States, he said it was too early to give details beyond the fact that the visit has been agreed to and was expected to take place in the northern spring.

“I am very interested in question relating to military justice, for example – in other words the response to alleged extrajudicial executions by members of the US military, particularly in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.”

He added that during the meeting of the Assembly’s Social, Humanitarian and Cultural (Third) Committee, delegations had raised the question of non-State actors and military contractors. “That’s clearly an issue I would want to look at insofar as executions are involved and obviously in the Blackwater case they are,” he said, adding that issues relating to use of the death penalty in the US would also be of interest.

Mr. Alston said he had told Committee about difficulties he has had in visiting countries, including Security Council members such as China and the Russian Federation, as well as several members of the Human Rights Council: Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. In addition, he sought to visit Myanmar, Kenya, El Salvador, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Venezuela.

In other rule of law and human rights news, Leandro Despouy, the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, yesterday voiced concern about Sudan’s lack of cooperation with the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In an address to the Assembly’s third committee, Mr. Despouy welcomed recent ratifications of the Court’s Statute and its detention of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo in connection with crimes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). But he said “by contrast Sudan’s lack of cooperation with the Court is worrying.”

He also stressed the need for the Government of Uganda and the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to reach agreement excluding any amnesty for war crimes, crimes against humanity, grave violations of human rights achieving a balance between the need for justice and the need to establish lasting peace.