Iran: Juvenile Offender at Imminent Danger of Execution Despite Being Mentally Unfit

Feb. 21, 2019, 7:01 p.m.

Iran Human Rights (IHR); Feb 21, 2019: Juvenile offender Mohammad Kalhor who is sentenced to death for murdering his teacher at the age of 15, is at imminent danger of execution. His death sentence can be carried out in the coming days despite several reports by medical experts testifying that Mohammad was mentally unfit and suffered from depression at the time of the crime. IHR calls on the international community to make all the effort they can to save Mohammad's life. Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of IHR said: "International reactions can still save Mohammad's life. We especially call on Iran's European dialogue partners to put pressure on the Iranian authorities to stop Mohammad Kalhor's execution".

According to some reports Mohammad's family members have been told to visit the juvenile death row prisoner for the last time.

Mohammad Kalhor was a 15-year-old schoolboy from Boroujerd  (western Iran) when he stabbed his 43-year-old physics teacher, Mohsen Khashkhashi, on November 22, 2014. Despite several reports by the state medical experts testifying that Mohammad was mentally unfit and suffered from depression at the time of the crime, the criminal court of Lorestan Province sentenced him to death and the verdict was ultimately upheld by Iranian Supreme Court.

Under Article 91 of the Islamic Penal Code which was added to the law 5 years ago, judges are allowed to issue alternative verdicts for the minors. The juvenile offenders whom a judge considers not mature enough to realize the nature of the crime committed can face imprisonment instead of qisas (retribution) death sentence. However, it is up to the presiding judge’s discretion to deem the juvenile mature enough to understand the nature of the offense. Otherwise, the Islamic Penal Code puts the age of criminal responsibility 15 lunar years for boys and 9 lunar years for girls. In Mohammad’s case, Article 91 was not considered at all.

Lawyer Aghakhani emphasised that his client was immature at the time of the crime and according to official testimonies by medical experts and forensics, should not be executed. His last request for a review of the case under Article 91 was rejected. “Several efforts to win the plaintiffs’ consent has failed. A few days ago, Mohammad’s family members have been told to do their last efforts, otherwise, he will be executed soon,” the lawyer said.

According to the Iranian Islamic Penal Code (IPC) murder is punishable by qisas which means “retribution in kind” or retaliation. In qisas cases, the plaintiff has the possibility to forgive or demand Diya (blood money). Therefore, if the murdered teacher’s family members do not forgive Mohammad, he will be hanged to death soon.

It is worth mentioning that the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Iran has ratified, clearly bans execution and life imprisonment of juveniles. According to IHR statistic department, at least 6 juvenile offenders were executed in Iran in 2018.