UN Committee Urges Iran to Comply with their International Obligations
Following a review of the situation of children in Iran, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has published its concluding observations on the combined third and fourth periodic reports of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI). The report criticises the IRI in quite a few number of areas where national laws and practices fail to comply with international standards in relation to children’s rights. See the full report here.
Definition of the child, for instance, has been a major area of concern for the civil society and the Committee has taken a strong position on this matter. In a detailed report of February 2015, Insight Iran had submitted to the Committee that the age of puberty under Islamic Shari’a is still the definitive criterion for criminal responsibility and varies for boys and girls. It allows girls as young as 8 years and 9 months of age and boys of 14 years and 7 months to be held criminally responsible. This clearly is a very “low” and “discriminatory” standard, particularly against girls.
The Committee has raised serious concerns that despite its previous recommendations, the age of majority in Iran remains set at pre-defined ages of puberty for girls at 9 and for boys at 15 lunar years which results in depriving girls and boys above these ages from the protection under the Convention.
The Committee has also expressed grave concern about the persisting discrimination against girls in the IRI’s legislation and in practice in many aspects of life, including the discriminatory treatment of girls in family relations, criminal justice system, and compensation for physical injury, among others. Insight Iran had raised the issue of discrimination between boys and girls in various areas including compensation for bodily injuries.
Similarly, the Committee is deeply concerned about the law age of marriage in Iran (13 years for girls and 15 years for boys) and emphasised that it gravely violates rights under the Convention and places children, in particular girls at risk of forced and early marriages with irreversible consequences on their physical and mental health and development.
The Committee has urged the IRI to revise as a matter of urgency and priority its legislation to ensure that all persons below the age of 18 years, without exceptions, are considered as children and provided with all rights under the Convention. The Committee also urges the IRI to further increase the minimum age for marriage for both girls and boys to 18 years, and to take all necessary measures to eliminate child marriages in line with the IRI’s obligations under the Convention.
Insight Iran had submitted to the Committee 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, more often 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 has strongly urged the IRI 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.
Under article 91 of the Islamic Penal Code of 2013, in special conditions, children below the age of 18 years who have been sentenced to hudud and qisas punishments could be granted retrial and exemption from hudud and qisas punishments. However, Insight Iran had raised concern that such exemptions are under full discretion of judges who are allowed, but not obliged to seek forensic expert opinion.
The Committee has expressed serious concern about this issue and that several persons have been re-sentenced to death following such re-trials. The Committee deplores that the IRI 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 has strongly urged the IRI as a matter of utmost priority to:
Insight Iran had urged the Committee to consider the differences between ta’zir crimes on the one hand and hudud and qisas on the other hand. We had submitted that while corporal punishment and flogging of children for the ta’zir category has been abolished for children under the new IPC, the same has not taken place with regard to Hudud and Qisas.
The Committee has paid a careful attention to these differences and while welcoming the changes in the 2013 Islamic Penal Code, it “remains seriously concerned that the IPC retains the punishment of children who reached the legal age of criminal responsibility (9 lunar years for girls and 15 years for boys) for crimes under the categories of Hudud and Qisas with sentences involving torture or cruel, degrading treatment or punishment, which has been and continue to be applied to children.”
Insight Iran had submitted an alternative report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in advance of the Committee’s review of the IRI’s Periodic Report. The submission examined the IRI’s criminal justice system when dealing with crimes committed by, and against, children. The executive summary of the Insight Iran’s submission can be downloaded here.
Insight Iran had also joined other leading human rights NGOs such as Amnesty International, Justice for Iran, Iran Human Rights, and Baha’i International Community and made a joint submission to the Committee. One of the most comprehensive of its kind, the joint submission covered various areas of concern with regard to the IRI’s commitments pursuant to the CRC. We also took part in the Committee’s pre-sessional meeting in June 2015 in Geneva, where the submissions were considered and prepared for the main session of the review of the IRI January this year. All the submissions can be found here.