WMA condemns complicity of doctors in Iranian executions


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.’

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