Iranian president under scrutiny over execution of juveniles

A UN report, along with one by Amnesty International, has spurred commentary from ordinary Iranians on social media.

Iran President Hassan Rouhani at the Campidoglio palace in Rome, Italy, January 25, 2016  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Iran President Hassan Rouhani at the Campidoglio palace in Rome, Italy, January 25, 2016
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BEIRUT  - The case presented by the Iranian judiciary was simple: In the southern province of Fars, Fatemeh Salbehi suffocated her husband after drugging him, a capital crime in the Islamic Republic.
What made the case controversial is that Salbehi was only 17, a minor by international legal standards, when she allegedly committed the crime. Her alleged confession also came during a series of interrogations where there was no lawyer present.
The case was retried but Salbehi was hanged in the Adel Abad prison in Shiraz last October.
The issue has come under scrutiny because of a scathing UN report on human rights in Iran last month which highlighted what it called the "alarmingly high" rate of executions in the country, including juveniles.
That report, along with an Amnesty International report in January, spurred commentary from ordinary Iranians on social media at least some of which criticized President Hassan Rouhani for not doing more to stop the juvenile executions.
Iran has the highest rate of juvenile executions in the world, despite being a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, an international human rights treaty that forbids capital punishment for anyone under 18.
Only a week before Salbehi's execution, another juvenile offender was executed.
"The fact that there were two executions in less than two weeks just shows how indifferent and contemptuous the Iranian authorities are of their obligations," said Raha Bahreini, the Iran researcher for Amnesty International.
In the past decade, Iran has executed at least 73 juvenile offenders, according to the January Amnesty report.
The juvenile executions have continued despite campaign promises made by Rouhani in 2013 to reform human rights. Since coming to office, Rouhani has been focused on foreign policy, such as the nuclear deal sealed with world powers last summer, and domestic issues like juvenile execution have been largely ignored, observers say.
"The administration can't just keep hiding behind the nuclear issue," said Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. "Rouhani doesn't seem at all interested to push for it, fight the battle and improve the human rights situation. And that's a problem because we're now into the third year of his term."