GENEVA- The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Iran's appeal courts Tuesday to carefully review death sentences handed down for three people over street unrest following the disputed election in June.
International law stipulates that the death penalty can only be applied when strict conditions are met, specifically when defendants charged with the most serious crimes are subjected to scrupulously fair trials, Navi Pillay said in a statement.
In the view of most U.N. human rights bodies, imposing the death penalty for crimes that did not result in loss of life violates an international treaty on civil and political rights which was ratified by Iran, he said.
There are also major concerns about the way the recent trials of opposition activists were conducted and I hope these judgments will be reviewed carefully by the higher courts, the South African said in a statement.
The Iranian news agency ISNA reported Saturday that a court had sentenced three people to death over the street unrest and links to exiled opposition groups.
Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi, asked about the death sentences linked to post-election incidents, was quoted by the official IRNA news agency Tuesday as saying: These verdicts are not finalized and there is a right to appeal.
The death sentences would only be carried out after such appeal proceedings, he said.
The opposition has said the presidential poll was rigged to secure hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election. Iranian authorities reject the charge and have portrayed the protests as foreign-backed efforts to undermine Iran.
Pillay also voiced dismay that Iran hanged a man Saturday who was under 18 when he stabbed a boy to death. The European Union had urged Iran to halt Behnoud Shojaie's execution and Pillay had raised case with Tehran.
Philip Alston, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, arbitrary or summary executions, denounced the hanging and said he had written three times to Iran's government about the case.
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, he said in a statement.
It is unequivocal and admits no exception.
Under international law, convicted murderers must be allowed to appeal to authorities for pardon or commutation of sentence, according to the New York University law professor.
Iran's Islamic law states that only a murder victim's family can spare the life of a convicted killer, often in exchange for financial compensation, so-called blood money, but no pardon was given in this case.
Tehran prosecutor Jafari-Dolatabadi, asked about the case, said: The judicial system tried hard to convince the family of the victim, who had asked for retribution (qesas), to change their mind and drop their request for retribution.
As we failed to convince the family, we were forced to implement the law which might be bitter for some people.
(Additional reporting by Fredrik Dahl in Tehran; editing by Robin Pomeroy)