Iranian government works to outlaw practice of juvenile execution

The execution of people under the age of 18 has "practically stopped" in Iran and the government is working to ban the practice.

Ali Reza Jamshidi's comments came two days after Human Rights Watch called on Iran to stop executing juveniles, saying the country was the world's leading offender.

"The execution of children under the age of 18 practically stopped years ago," IRNA quoted Jamshidi as saying Friday.

Jamshidi said the judiciary had proposed a bill that would outlaw juvenile executions and hoped the country's legislators would soon approve it, IRNA reported.

But HRW said in a press release Wednesday that proposed legislation currently pending in Iran's Parliament would still allow the death penalty for juvenile offenders if the judge decided the defendant was "mentally mature." The group called on legislators to remove this legal discretion.

It was not immediately clear if Jamshidi and HRW were referring to the same bill.

HRW said Iran had executed at least 17 juvenile offenders, eight times more than any other country, since the beginning of 2004, including two so far this year.

Such sentences violate international treaties ratified by Iran that prohibit the death penalty for crimes committed by people under the age of 18, according to the human rights group.

HRW said Iran had executed at least three juvenile offenders in 2004, eight in 2005 and four in 2006.

Sudan, China and Pakistan are the only other countries known to execute juvenile offenders, according to the release.