Juveniles on Death Row

by JoHarrington

The death penalty for children has been stamped out in the majority of countries. Where it remains, kids as young as 13 are being killed.

Until 2005, the USA led the world in judicially executing its children.

There are plenty of individuals still on Death Row, who have been appealing their sentence since they were teenagers.

By 2012, the dubious title of most juveniles receiving the death penalty belongs to Iran. However, another seven countries allow the potential for this to occur within their borders too.

Amnesty International is amongst human rights organizations trying to stamp the killing out.

Children and the Death Penalty Around the World

Nine countries have placed juveniles on Death Row during the last two decades. Iran and the USA have executed the majority.

Mahmoud Asgari was just sixteen when the noose went over his head. He was being executed for a crime committed fourteen months previously.

Beside him, Ayaz Marhoni had turned 18. They had acted together, been tried together and now they were going to die together.

It was a case which was causing controversy across the world. For a start, this hanging was contravening international law. Iran had signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which specifically prohibited juvenile executions.

(The USA and Somalia were unable to ratify their signatures for that very reason. Both nations reserved the right to sentence children to death.)

Nevertheless, on a sunny day in July 2005, a crowd had gathered in Edalat Square, in Mashbad, north-eastern Iran. They remained to watch the public hanging of two teenagers, who had each been given 228 lashes while waiting for their date with the gallows.

They were just two of an estimated 86 child executions, which have taken place worldwide since 1990, according to figures collected by Amnesty International. The vast majority of those died in Iran and the USA. The rest were in China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen.

The most recent was also in Iran. Delara Darabi was seventeen when her father's cousin was killed during a break-in. She initially confessed to the murder, believing that her youth would save her from execution.

When it became clear that it wouldn't, she changed her story. Her boyfriend had done it and then asked her to lie to protect him. She was in love. She did it.

The court didn't accept the new testimony and sentenced her to death anyway. Activists rallied to her cause, prompting Iran's Head of the Judiciary to cable a stay of execution. It was ignored by the governor of Rasht Central Prison. Delara was hanged during the morning of April 19th, 2009.

Until 2005, the USA led the world in child executions, though, in fairness, most of those were committed in the state of Texas. However, the case of Roper v Simmons (PDF) resulted in the death penalty being ruled unconstitutional for juveniles. The deciding factor was the fact that 30 states had previously opted to ban capital punishment for those under 18 years old at the time of the crime. This meant that there was now a 'national consensus' towards abolition.

China, Pakistan, Sudan and Yemen have also changed their laws within the past five years. Each country now requires defendants to have been over 18 at the time of the crime, before they can be sentenced to death.

This leaves just The Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia allowing the practice. Nigeria is laboring under a self-imposed moratorium. This has resulted in 30 children since 1997 starting life sentences on Death Row without actually facing execution.

Documentary About American Teenagers on Death Row

In Texas and Louisiana, two people await execution for crimes committed when they were just 17 years old. This Journeyman Special tells their stories.

Books about Child Executions

Read these harrowing accounts of juveniles facing (or having already died) under the death penalty.

Poll: Should juvenile executions be allowed under the law?

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More articles about the Death Penalty

Activists are trying to clear the name of the youngest person to be killed in America's electric chair. They have the blessing of his family.
I consider judicial execution to be a 'cruel and unusual punishment', which is contrary to international human rights laws.
Documentary film-makers are set to launch an anti-death penalty campaign. They will travel across the USA interviewing those exonerated of all crimes.
The mere fact of being born into our species entitles you to human rights; but do you know what they actually are?
Updated: 01/27/2015, JoHarrington
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JoHarrington on 04/30/2012

No they haven't. There's only the USA and Somalia who didn't sign the Rights of the Child. The sticking point for the USA was the death penalty, but now that's on hold, there's really no barrier to the signing. Let's hope that they do it.

EMK Events on 04/30/2012

It's surprised me that the USA was killing kids until 2005. I didn't know that the country hadn't signed the Rights of the Child.

JoHarrington on 02/08/2012

The sad truth is that it depends on the country. If you're a G8 country, then the entire of the UN can kick, scream and officially denounce their actions, but little else happens.

If you're a small nation that someone in the G8 hates, then all kinds of sanctions get imposed.

I didn't know that about child prostitution/trafficking. It certainly looks like a double standard to me.

Ember on 02/08/2012

What happens when a country is contravening a law they signed like that? Were there repercussions for the government from the UN?

As far as the death penalty, I don't support it for children or adults, but there is something about convicting a child as an adult in anyway. I know an argument is that they deserve it, because they were "making adult decisions," when they did something like murder, but I just don't agree with that.

This makes me think of children in the US who are being trafficked. Its interesting that according to US law it isn't prostitution, but automatically considered to be trafficking for any child under 18. Yet, children coerced onto the streets are often picked up and convicted on criminal charges. Instead of getting help, they are imprisoned.

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