June 10, 2010 / 7:10 PM / 9 years ago

Iran to review juvenile executions

GENEVA (Reuters) - Iran agreed on Thursday to review its widely condemned policy of executing juvenile criminals and pledged to uphold freedoms of expression, media and assembly, Western officials said.

Mohammad Javad Larijani, secretary-general of the Iranian high council for human rights, said that Iran was open to an impartial discussion of its record, but Western ways should not be imposed on the Islamic republic.

“We are a democracy, perhaps the only and greatest one in the Middle East. We are very proud of that achievement,” he told the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The 47-member forum held a follow-up to its first examination of Iran’s record in February, focusing on alleged executions and torture since last June’s presidential election.

Iran has also submitted a document responding to 20 recommendations made in February by other countries which it had requested time to consider.

The debate came a day after the Security Council agreed fresh sanctions against Iran to punish it for its suspected nuclear weapons programme.

It also coincided with Iran’s opposition cancelling plans for a rally to mark the anniversary of last year’s disputed presidential election on Saturday, due to fears for people’s lives in any government crackdown.

“From our point of view, Iran is in violation of its international responsibilities on at least two front: one is the nuclear material matter and the other is human rights matters,” U.S. ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe told reporters.

Asked whether sanctions might deter Iran from cooperating on human rights, she said: “The sanctions and nuclear conversation will help us because the Iranian regime will see it is becoming more and more isolated around the world on every subject.”

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Donahoe welcomed Iran’s acceptance of some recommendations she said had emerged during the review, including allowing freedoms of expression, media and assembly but said: “Empty promises are not enough; Iran needs to act.”

“People are put in jail unjustly, people are summarily executed and tortured for their free expression of political views,” she said. “We need to shine a light because that is what puts pressure on the Iranian government.”

Iran, in reply to calls from 10 mainly European states for it to ban the death penalty for offenders who commit crimes while under age 18, said in the document it took note of the recommendation.

But the age of criminal responsibility emanated from the principles of Islamic law, or Sharia, and national law, it said.

“We urge Iran to end this abhorrent practice and to begin by an immediate stay of execution on any juveniles on death row,” British ambassador Peter Gooderham said.

Iran has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child — which bans the death penalty or life imprisonment for offences committed by a minor defined as under 18 years of age. But it opted out of that specific clause.

Iran did not directly address the issue of executions by stoning, a concern raised by Australia and Japan.

Editing by Jonathan Lynn and Elizabeth Fullerton

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