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The complicity of state-affiliated doctors in Iran in facilitating the execution of young prisoners in the country has been condemned by the World Medical Association.
This follows the execution last month of 19-year-old Abolfazl Chezani Sharahi who was sentenced to death in 2014. The WMA says his sentence was issued based on an official medical opinion by the Legal Medicine Organization in Iran, stating that he was mentally “mature” at the age of 14 when the crime of which he was convicted took place.
In a letter jointly addressed to the Office of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei, to President Hassan Rouhani and to the Head of the Judiciary Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, the WMA President Dr. Yoshitake Yokokura and WMA Chair Dr. Ardis Hoven say this involvement of physicians is in direct violation of international law and their duties as physicians, and is both unethical and illegal.
The WMA leaders write: ‘Further, physicians have a clear duty to avoid any involvement in torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment, including the death penalty. This is specified in the World Medical Association’s policies and the International Code of Medical Ethics. Doctors who provide “maturity” assessments that are then used by courts to issue death sentences, as do physicians affiliated with the Legal Medicine Organization, are facilitating the execution of individuals.’
In their letter, the WMA leaders say that according to Amnesty International, Abolfazl Chezani Sharahi was the fourth individual since the beginning of 2018 to be executed after being convicted of crime committed when under the age of 18 and that there are at least 85 other juvenile offenders who currently remain on death row based on medical maturity assessments.
‘Iran has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which absolutely prohibits the use of the death penalty against people who were below the age of 18 at the time of the crime they are convicted of committing. We urge Iran’s authorities to amend the Islamic Penal Code so as to comply with international human rights laws by abolishing the use of the death penalty for crimes committed by people below the age of 18 in all circumstances. ‘Further, physicians have a clear duty to avoid any involvement in torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment, including the death penalty.’
The letter concludes: ‘The World Medical Association calls for Iranian authorities to acknowledge a physician’s duty to do no harm and to guarantee that physicians are complying with the fundamental principles of medical ethics by prohibiting physician involvement in sentencing individuals to the death penalty or in the preparation, facilitation, or participation in executions.’
In a further letter to Dr. Iradj Fazel, President of the Iranian Medical Council, the WMA calls on the Council to publicly acknowledge a physician’s duty to do no harm and to condemn firmly the medical maturity assessments provided by the Legal Medicine Organization.
‘The World Medical Association urges the Iranian Medical Council to speak out in support of the fundamental principles of medical ethics, and to investigate and sanction any breach of these principles by association members.’ (WMA, July 16, 2018)