Tuesday, in a United Nations press release, John Norton Pomeroy Professor of Law Philip Alston, United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, denounced the execution of Behnoud Shojaie, a 21-year-old man who was hanged this week in Iran for a killing committed in 2005, when he was 17.

In his statement Alston revealed that in the last two years he had written three letters to the Iranian government denouncing the sentence of Shojaie. The Iranian government replied, saying that attempts were made to convince Shojaie's family to pay "blood money" to the victim’s family and have the execution stopped. “While such efforts to mediate between the family of the child found guilty of a killing and the victim’s family are welcome, they are utterly insufficient to satisfy Iran’s obligations under international law," Alston stated.

Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay is calling for a review of Iran’s current death penalty practices in the wake of the death sentences handed down to three protesters who were arrested after Iran’s disputed June election. "The imposition of the death penalty for crimes that do not result in loss of life is contrary to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” Pillay said in a statement. She also called for Iran “to end execution of juvenile offenders once and for all.”

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Iran agreed to in 1975, bans death sentences for offenders who are not yet 18 at the time of their offense. In his statement, Alston also cites the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the Islamic Republic of Iran entered into in 1994, and which reaffirms the death sentence ban for juveniles. "The prohibition against executing juvenile offenders—those who were under the age of 18 at the time of committing the relevant crime—is one of the clearest and most important of international human rights standards," Alston said in the statement. "It is unequivocal and admits no exception."

Posted on October 13, 2009