London, 17 July – The World Medical Association has condemned state-affiliated doctors in Iran for their complicity in the facilitation of the execution of young prisoners in the country.
This follows the execution of Abolfazl Chezani Sharahi, 19, in June, who was sentenced to death in 2014 after the Legal Medicine Organisation in Iran gave their official medical opinion that he was mentally “mature” at 14, when the crime took place.
The WMA’s President Dr Yoshitake Yokokura and Chair Dr Ardis Hoven wrote an open letter to Iran Leader Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani and Head of the Judiciary Sadegh Larijani, in which they stated that the involvement of doctors in the execution of people aged under 18 when a ‘crime’ was committed is illegal under international law, unethical, and in direct violation of their duties as physicians.
The letter read: “Physicians have a clear duty to avoid any involvement in torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishments, 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 Organisation, are facilitating the execution of individuals.”
According to Amnesty International, Abolfazl Chezani Sharahi was the fourth person executed for crimes committed whilst under the age of 18 in 2018 alone and there are still 85 people on death for crimes that they committed whilst minors.
This is despite the fact that Iran has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which bans the death penalty for crimes committed by minors.
The WMA called on Iran to amend its penal code to comply with international human rights laws by abolishing the death penalty for crimes committed by people below the age of 18 in all circumstances.
The letter concluded: “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.”
The WMA penned a separate letter to Dr Iradj Fazel, President of the Iranian Medical Council, asking the Council to publicly acknowledge a doctor’s duty to first do no harm and condemn medical maturity assessments.
The letter read: “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.”