Rights Committee explicitly stipulated that the imposition of the death penalty cannot “be based
on vaguely defined criminal provisions, whose application to the convicted individual would
depend on subjective or discretionary considerations the application of which is not reasonably
foreseeable.”10 The lack of precision and clarity around what can constitute a crime of
moharebeh, for instance, grants judges broad discretion in interpretation and does not satisfy
the principle of legality.
In its latest General Comment on Article 6, the Human Rights Committee explicitly stipulated
that the term “the most serious crimes” must “be read restrictively and appertain only to crimes
of extreme gravity, involving intentional killing. Crimes not resulting directly and intentionally
in death […], although serious in nature, can never serve as the basis, within the framework of
Article 6, for the imposition of the death penalty. In the same vein, a limited degree of
involvement or of complicity in the commission of even the most serious crimes, […], cannot
justify the imposition of the death penalty.”11
Additionally, international law and human rights treaties determine the age of criminal
responsibility at 18 years and older, with those below 18 years constituting juveniles. 12 The
laws in the Islamic Republic in Iran differ significantly from these international standards. The
Islamic Penal Code (2013)13 establishes the age of criminal responsibility at 9 lunar years for
girls and 15 lunar years for boys.14 However, the age of responsibility for ta’zir crimes (crimes
for which fixed penalties are not provided in Islamic law giving the judge discretion as to the
sentence imposed) is 18 years for all children. For these crimes, convicted children are sentenced
to correctional measures. In contrast, criminal responsibility for crimes punishable by hudud
(punishments fixed by God) or qisas (punishment or retribution in kind), which carry mandatory
punishments such as death, is maintained at the age of “maturity” that is 9 lunar years for girls
and 15 lunar years for boys. The Islamic Penal Code does include one limitation on the
possibility of issuing the death sentence to those under the age of 18. Article 91 allows judges to
issue alternative sentences in circumstances where the juveniles “do not realize the nature of the
crime committed or its prohibition, or if there is uncertainty about their full mental development,
according to their age”.15 The Article further adds that “the court may ask the opinion of forensic
medicine or resort to any other method that it sees appropriate in order to establish the full
mental development”.16 In 2017, a number of special procedure mandate holders described
10
UN Human Rights Committee (HRC), General comment no. 36, Article 6 (Right to Life), 3 September 2019, CCPR/C/GC/35,
available at: https://www.refworld.org/docid/5e5e75e04.html
11
UN Human Rights Committee (HRC), General comment no. 36, Article 6 (Right to Life), 3 September 2019, CCPR/C/GC/35,
available at: https://www.refworld.org/docid/5e5e75e04.html
12
https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/crc.aspx
13
Article 146 and 147, Islamic Penal Code (2013), English translation, Iran Human Rights Documentation Center,
https://iranhrdc.org/english-translation-of-books-i-ii-of-the-new-islamic-penal-code/
14
Article 1210, note 1
15
Islamic Penal Code (2013), English translation, Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, https://iranhrdc.org/englishtranslation-of-books-i-ii-of-the-new-islamic-penal-code/
16
See Islamic Penal Code (2013), English translation, Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, https://iranhrdc.org/englishtranslation-of-books-i-ii-of-the-new-islamic-penal-code/.

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