Eye on Iran: Iran President Visits Europe to Seal Post-Sanctions Deals Worth Billions

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WSJ: "European companies are promising billions in new deals in Iran-€5.7 billion from Italian steelmaker Danieli and more than €300 million from French car builder PSA Peugeot Citroën, among others-as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani works to revive trade and political ties on the Continent this week. Mr. Rouhani landed in Rome on Monday on his first overseas trip since the European Union lifted sanctions on Jan. 16 in return for Tehran's implementation of key restrictions on its nuclear program. The trip will take Mr. Rouhani from Vatican City-marking the first meeting between an Iranian president and a pope since 1999-to the gilded halls of Paris's Élysée Palace. With a number of U.S. sanctions still in place, European countries are moving quickly to re-establish ties to sell everything from consumer goods to aircraft. Italian and Iranian companies signed deals valued at about €17 billion ($18.36 billion) late Monday ahead of a formal dinner between Mr. Rouhani and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Earlier in the day, Italian steel firm Danieli said it would sign deals valued at about €5.7 billion during the visit. Other firms signing agreements on Monday included oil-field services company Saipem SpA, energy group Ansaldo Energia and ship maker Fincantieri SpA... In France, auto makers, airport operators and construction firms were primed for a raft of accords when Mr. Rouhani visits French President François Hollande on Thursday. French car maker Peugeot is expected to complete an agreement to manufacture cars in Iran as part of a 50-50 joint venture with auto maker Iran Khodro valued at more than €300 million, according to a person familiar with the matter... In opening its doors for business, however, Tehran is demanding European firms locate technological know-how and factories inside Iran to revive the country's hobbled job market. Another key plank of Iran's ambitions is the revamping of its creaky aviation industry. Iranian officials say they plan to buy more than 100 new jets from Airbus Group SE to replenish the country's small and poorly maintained commercial passenger fleet. Mr. Rouhani's meeting with Mr. Hollande in Paris on Thursday is timed to the unveiling of about €400 million in contracts to expand Iran's aging airports for increased tourism and business traffic, one of the people familiar with the matter said. Tehran is expected to tap French airport operator Aéroports de Paris and construction-and-media conglomerate Bouygues SA to design and build a new terminal at Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport, according to the people. French construction firm Vinci SA will develop and operate airports in Mashhad and another Iranian city, the people said... Just minutes after Mr. Rouhani landed in Rome, Italian airline Alitalia SpA said it would boost the number of flights between Rome and Tehran from four times a week to daily, starting March 27." http://t.uani.com/1QpOjfA

"Four-fifths of candidates for the body that will choose Iran's next Supreme Leader have withdrawn or been disqualified including a grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini close to reformist politicians, in a setback to President Hassan Rouhani. The 12-member Guardian Council, a clerical body that oversees elections and legislation, approved just 166 of the 801 candidates for the Assembly of Experts, electoral commission spokesman Siamak Rahpeik was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA on Tuesday. The disqualifications, a week after thousands of parliamentary candidates were similarly excluded, are a blow to Rouhani... Back in Tehran, hardliners who opposed his diplomatic opening are manoeuvring to exclude his allies from the upcoming elections and check his ambitions to carry out domestic reforms. Among those excluded was Hassan Khomeini, grandson of the Islamic Republic's first Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini... Elections to the 88-member Assembly of Experts fall on Feb. 26. The Assembly oversees the activities of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and will choose his successor if the 76-year-old cleric dies or becomes incapacitated during its eight-year term. Elections to the 290-seat parliament are being held on the same day. Last week, the Guardian Council disqualified more than 7,000 of the 12,000 parliamentary candidates, including almost all reformist candidates and many moderates... the exclusion of the charismatic Khomeini, with his unique revolutionary legacy, is a major blow to the moderate movement. With so few candidates approved, conservatives appear likely to stay firmly in control of both parliament and the Assembly of Experts. 'The tiny faction led by Rafsanjani, who once used to lead the assembly, will not be able to have a big say,' Rassam said. Rafsanjani was ousted as the Assembly's chairman last year in favor of Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, a hardliner."  http://t.uani.com/1OMKFff
Newsweek: "A little-noticed side agreement to the Iran nuclear deal has unexpectedly reopened painful wounds for the families of more than a dozen Americans attacked or held hostage by Iranian proxies in recent decades. U.S. officials, the families say, insisted that Tehran would pay for financing or directing the attacks, but American taxpayers wound up paying instead. The agreement, which resolved a long-running financial dispute with Iran, involved the return of $400 million in Iranian funds that the U.S. seized after the 1979 Islamic revolution, plus another $1.3 billion in interest. Announced on January 17-the same day the two countries implemented the nuclear deal and carried out a prisoner swap-President Barack Obama presented the side agreement as a bargain for the United States, noting that a claims tribunal in the Hague could have awarded Iran a much larger judgment. 'For the United States, this settlement saved us billions of dollars that could have been pursued by Iran,' Obama said. But for the victims, the side deal is a betrayal, not a bargain. In 2000, the Clinton administration agreed to pay the $400 million to more than a dozen Americans who had won judgments against Iran in U.S. courts. At the time, American officials assured the victims that the Treasury would be reimbursed from the seized Iranian funds. That same year, Congress passed a law empowering the president to get the money from Iran. 'We all believed that Iran would pay our damages, not U.S. taxpayers,' says Stephen Flatow, a New Jersey real estate lawyer who received $24 million for the death of his 19-year-old daughter in a 1995 bus bombing in the Gaza Strip. 'And now, 15 years later, we find out that they never deducted the money from the account. It makes me nauseous. The Iranians aren't paying a cent.' Flatow's cohorts agree. They include the families and survivors of some of the most high-profile foreign attacks against Americans in recent decades. Among them: five former Beirut hostages whom the Iran-backed Islamist group Hezbollah held for years during the 1980s; the wife of U.S. Marine Colonel William Higgins, whom Hezbollah kidnapped in 1988, before torturing and hanging him; the family of Navy diver Robert Stethem, whom an Iranian-backed group murdered in Beirut during the 1985 hijacking of a TWA airliner; and a family whose daughter was killed in a Hamas bus bombing in Jerusalem in 1996... the revelation that Iran never paid the money has hit some of the families hard. They've lost the feeling that some measure of justice was served. 'I feel like a schnorrer,' says Flatow, using the Yiddish term for a mooch, because U.S. taxpayers, not Iran, paid his damages. Other victims say they're bothered by the administration's reluctance to discuss the details of the side deal. It's brought back memories from 20 years ago, when the victims won their judgments against Iran in U.S. courts, only to find themselves blocked at every turn by the Clinton administration." http://t.uani.com/1UoFweM
U.S.-Iran Relations
WSJ: "The disappearance of three U.S. citizens in Iraq is posing a fresh test of the Obama administration's relationship with Iran, a week after the White House completed a high-stakes prisoner swap. Some U.S. intelligence officials and Iraqi police have said in recent days they believe hard-line Iraqi Shiite militias with close ties to Tehran abducted three American defense contractors earlier this month in a suburb of Baghdad. U.S. officials said they are specifically looking at three Iraqi militias for their possible role in the kidnappings: Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, or the League of the Righteous, Kata'ib Hezbollah, and the Badr Corps. All of them, the Pentagon has long believed, receive training, arms and funding from Iran's elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Secretary of State John Kerry last week raised the issue of the missing Americans in Iraq with his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, according to U.S. officials. The suspected kidnappings in Iraq serve as a fresh test for the White House's efforts to strengthen its ties with Tehran in the wake of the recent prisoner swap... Mr. Kerry and other Obama administration officials have said there are no indications Iran played a role in abducting the Americans. They also haven't ruled out the possibility that the disappearances resulted from criminal activity common in Baghdad. But they have said Tehran may be able to use its influence with the Iraqi militias to gain the Americans' release... Some inside the U.S. intelligence community take a more skeptical view of Iran's willingness to play a role in gaining the Americans' freedom... A number of former U.S. officials who have worked on Iran policy have voiced concerns that the Obama administration's hopes for improved relations with Tehran weren't being matched by Iranian actions in the region." http://t.uani.com/1nMXAVH
Reuters: "Saeed Abedini, an American pastor freed this month from an Iranian prison as part of a U.S.-Iranian prisoner swap, said in a television interview aired on Monday that he was tortured and left in solitary confinement for refusing to sign a false confession and saw other prisoners being taken to be hanged. Abedini told Fox News that while in Tehran's Evin prison he was beaten by interrogators, left with an al Qaeda prisoner who tried to kill him and watched people screaming and crying while taken to be hanged. 'Yes, in interrogation once they beat me very badly because they wanted me to write something I didn't do ... Actually it was in a courtroom that the judge closed the door and the interrogators started beating me, and at that time I got a stomach bleeding,' he told Fox News. 'The worst thing that I saw was when they took some Sunnis for execution...Most of them were Sunnis, some of them were political prisoners.... I can say most were executed for their faith.'"  http://t.uani.com/1nMYkKq
Newsweek: "The U.N.'s cultural agency is to challenge Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, over the Islamic Republic's plan to host a cartoon contest for caricatures of the Holocaust. The contest, scheduled for June and announced last December by the country's Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), will be held at the Tehran International Cartoon Biennial and offers up a prize of $50,000. Organizers say the contest is supposed to highlight a perceived double standard surrounding the publication of caricatures of the prophet Mohammed, the central figure of Islam, but Israeli officials say it is an example of Iranian anti-Semitism. Iran has held similar contests twice before. In a set of letters obtained by Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz, Carmel Shama-Hacohen, the Israeli envoy to UNESCO, wrote to the agency to complain about the contest and UNESCO chief Irina Bokova replied, expressing her own opposition. It is now expected that Bokova will raise the issue with Rouhani when he addresses the agency's staff on Wednesday, sources have told the Israeli publication." http://t.uani.com/1ZQ96vi
Guardian: "Italian officials keen to spare the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, any possible offence on his visit to Rome covered up nude statues at the city's Capitoline Museum, where Rouhani met Matteo Renzi, the Italian prime minister. Photographs of Monday's visit show both men standing near a grand equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor. Nude statues in the vicinity were covered by large white panels... The decision to cover the artwork was seen as a sign of respect for the Iranian president, according to the Italian news agency Ansa. In another placatory gesture by Italian officials, alcohol was not served at an official dinner held in Rouhani's honour." http://t.uani.com/20qJF5E
Sanctions Relief
Reuters: "Generating economic growth in the Middle East is crucial to defeating extremism, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday, putting forward his country as a regional trade hub and pillar of stability... Underscoring the growing warmth, Rouhani said he expected Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to visit Iran in the coming months to help boost bilateral economic alliances. 'We are ready to welcome investment, welcome technology and create a new export market,' Rouhani told a business forum on the second day of his visit to Rome, saying Iran had ambitions to develop its own economy after years of curbs and hardship. 'Under the new conditions, we want to export 30 percent of what we produce in Iran,' he said, calling for rapid investment in 'the most secure and stable country in the region'... 'If we want to combat extremism in the world, if we want to fight terror, one of the roads before us is providing growth and jobs. Lack of growth creates forces for terrorism. Unemployment creates soldiers for terrorists,' Rouhani said... 'We are not looking at simple reactivation of our cooperation with Iran, but rather a comprehensive relaunch of a strategic alliance,' Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni told the business conference." http://t.uani.com/1WMKzaD
NYT: "For its part, Iran is promoting an investment law that promises tax breaks to foreign investors of up to 100 percent, the right to send revenue out of the country and protection of investments in case laws are changed. Still, some legal experts point out that the law seems to conflict with the constitution at some points. Conflicting views among Iran's political factions could also endanger investments, particularly involving products perceived as symbols of Western consumption. A newly opened restaurant calling itself Kentucky Fried Chicken (most likely a knockoff of its American counterpart) was closed in December by the morality police. One Moscow investment bank, Renaissance Capital, recently said in a note to investors that it expected foreign investors to follow an arc similar to that of investors in Russia in the 1990s - from enthusiasm to disillusionment - as Iran opens to the world. 'Investors will likely learn the pitfalls of investing in a country with entrenched vested interests, from the clergy to the Revolutionary Guard, and surprising linkages between banks and companies that lead to some investments turning sour,' the note said." http://t.uani.com/1OJSiD6
WSJ: "As Iranian officials scramble to reconnect to the global economy, one sector is getting early clearance for takeoff: its creaky aviation industry. In a raft of early deals and talks following the lifting of broad economic sanctions against Iran, officials and aviation executives here have signaled they are targeting an ambitious revamp of the country's aviation infrastructure. Such a rebuild would come as Tehran already starts to renew its aging fleet of commercial jetliners. The moves could help lure more business to Iran as well as, eventually, tourism." http://t.uani.com/1OVQsNv
Tasnim (Iran): "A senior Iranian trade official said three Russian banks have voiced their readiness to promote banking relations with the Islamic Republic in the near future in a bid to boost commercial cooperation between Tehran and Moscow. Speaking to the Tasnim News Agency on Monday, Mina Mehrnoush, the head of planning at Iran's Organization for Trade Development, said that during a recent visit to Russia by an Iranian trade delegation, 'good meetings' were held with three Russian banks, namely Mir Business Bank, Tempbank and RFC Bank. Mir Business Bank, which is the agent bank of Bank Melli Iran, agreed to provide good facilities and open proper credit lines for Iran, she said. The Iranian trade official went on to say that other issues were also discussed in her meetings with Russian banking officials, including opening accounts for Iranian companies without having to make a trip to Russia. Mehrnoush further said that Tempbank will open a representative office in Iran within a couple of months. During her 4-day stay in Moscow, the Iranian official also met with representatives of about fifty Russian import companies." http://t.uani.com/1Sh85f2
Reuters: "British regulators are considering whether to allow two Iranian banks in London to resume operations after years of sanctions, two sources familiar with the matter said. Melli Bank and Persia International Bank will only be able to operate in the UK once they have met Bank of England criteria for financial firms, the sources told Reuters on Monday. A nuclear deal with Iran earlier this month led to the removal of European Union curbs on its banks. This could bring Iranian banks in Britain, which less than 10 years ago boasted surging profits and growing European ties, out of isolation... Melli Bank and Persia International have been in talks with the regulator and the Treasury about restarting operations in Britain for months and have been placed in the New Bank Start-Up unit, unveiled last week by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Bank of England's Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) to help new banks enter the market, the sources said... The UK said in a statement: 'The UK Government fully supports expanding our trade relationship with Iran and encourages UK businesses to take advantage of the commercial opportunities that will arise... However, some sanctions remain in place so UK businesses should continue to ensure they are compliant with all sanctions regimes.'" http://t.uani.com/23qKaz4
Bloomberg: "A Greek oil-tanker owner was asked about transporting Iranian crude, a shipment that's only just become permissible following an easing of sanctions that hit the Persian Gulf country four years ago. Dynacom Tankers Management Ltd., based in the Athens suburb of Glyfada, has been approached to haul the Persian nation's crude, said chartering manager Odysseus Valatsas, declining to elaborate. Shipbroker reports compiled by Bloomberg show that Litasco SA and Cia. Espanola de Petroleos SAU both have Iranian cargoes for which they will need vessels next month for westbound shipment." http://t.uani.com/1TlBmGp
Reuters: "Pope Francis met Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in the Vatican on Tuesday and urged Tehran to work with other Middle East states to promote peace and stop the spread of terrorism and arms trafficking in the region... A Vatican statement spoke of the 'important role Iran is called on to play, along with other countries in the region, to promote adequate political solutions to the problems that afflict the Middle East, combating the spread of terrorism and arms trafficking'. 'I thank you for your visit and I hope for peace,' Francis told the Iranian leader at the end of a 40-minute meeting in the pope's private study in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace. Rouhani, who wore a white turban and black robe, asked the pope to 'pray for me'. He then held separate talks with top Vatican diplomats." http://t.uani.com/1nN3SVe
Asharq Al-Awsat: "Buenos Aries- Mexican intelligence, in cooperation with Canadian intelligence services, has recently revealed activities for the Lebanese Hezbollah under Iranian support being detected in Latin America, at Venezuela, Mexico, Nicaragua, Chile, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, in addition to the zone between the Paraguay, Argentine, and Brazil border triad. George Shea, expert in Middle Eastern affairs and lecturer at the Buenos Aires University, explained that Hezbollah, under Iranian sponsorship, now plans on further expansion following the Russian interference in Syria, in addition to the military Iranian presence that has reduced the need of Hezbollah ground troops in Syria. Authorities in Mexico had already arrested a Lebanese Hezbollah affiliate, on borders with the US, who was caught with fake identification papers and drugs. However, official authorities have yet not disclosed his name for further investigation on Hezbollah's activities there. The Lebanese detainee has confessed to being associated with the Iranian Army of the Guardians and that he was on a mission to collect data on foes of the Iranian government." http://t.uani.com/1OMNInO
Syria Conflict
Reuters: "The Syrian opposition cast doubt on whether it would go to peace talks planned for Friday, throwing U.N. diplomatic efforts into question as it accused the United States of adopting unacceptable Iranian and Russian ideas for solving the conflict. The Saudi-backed opposition was meeting on Tuesday to decide whether to attend the talks which U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura aims to open in Geneva on Friday, ushering in months of indirect negotiations between delegates in separate rooms. Opposition official Asaad al-Zoubi told Arabic news channel Al-Hadath that he was pessimistic, though the final decision would be taken at the opposition meeting in Riyadh... The Syrian government, which is clawing back territory from the rebels with the help of Russian air strikes and Iranian ground forces, has already said it will attend. The opposition comprising the recently formed High Negotiations Committee (HNC) has however repeatedly said the government and its allies must halt bombardments and lift blockades of besieged areas before they will go to any talks... Reflecting opposition misgivings about the process, he told Al-Hadath that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had tabled Iranian and Russian ideas about Syria at a recent meeting with opposition leader Riad Hijab. 'It was not comfortable for us for America - even in theory or partially - to adopt what came in the Iranian and Russian initiatives,' Zoubi said in the interview." http://t.uani.com/1KCkUu6
Human Rights
NYT: "Iran is one of the leading executioners of juvenile offenders, despite its improved legal protections for children and a pledge more than two decades ago to end the death penalty for convicts younger than 18, Amnesty International said Monday. In a new report, Amnesty International said that it had documented the execution of at least 73 juveniles in Iran from 2005 to 2015 and that 160 juvenile offenders are languishing on the country's death row. The report casts doubt on laws meant to improve children's rights in Iran in the past few years, including new discretion by judges to impose alternative punishments on juveniles convicted of capital crimes. In reality, the report said, these changes are attempts by the authorities to 'whitewash their continuing violations of children's rights and deflect criticism of their appalling record as one of the world's last executioners of juvenile offenders.' ... There is little doubt among rights groups that Iran has executed more people convicted of capital crimes committed as minors than any other country. 'Iran is almost certainly the world leader in executing juvenile offenders,' Michael G. Bochenek, senior counsel of the children's rights division at Human Rights Watch, said in a post on its website in April. Amnesty International has released its report as a United Nations committee is reviewing compliance with the Convention of the Rights of the Child. In 1994, Iran ratified that treaty, which prohibits capital punishment and life imprisonment without the possibility of release for offenses committed by people younger than 18." http://t.uani.com/1SIa7X7
ICHRI: "'Why has the Islamic Republic agreed to the release of Iranian-American prisoners but they won't free our own prisoners who are the children of Iran?' asked Ahmad Ronaghi Maleki, whose son, Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, has spent more than six years in prison for blogging. Speaking to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Hossein Ronaghi Maleki's father added that he expects Iranian officials to show mercy for innocent Iranian prisoners. 'As a father I want my son to be free, too. All these years I have been running around shouting for my son's freedom so that someone might hear me.' Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, now 30, was sentenced to 15 years in prison by Judge Pirabbasi for blogging comments critical of the results of the 2009 presidential election in Iran. The results of that election were widely disputed in Iran, and peaceful protests were met with a violent state crackdown that left hundreds arrested and jailed. Maleki was charged with 'acting against national security' and 'supporting and receiving money from foreign organizations.' Ahmad Ronaghi Maleki told the Campaign that his son returned to Evin Prison at the end of his furlough on January 20, 2016, four days before the Iran-U.S. prisoner exchange. He had been released on June 14, 2015, on 14 billion rials (approximately $464,000) bail to receive treatment for persistent lung, kidney, and digestive problems." http://t.uani.com/1QyTITo
IHR: "Two unidentified prisoners have been hanged by Iranian authorities. According to state run news agency Khabar Online, a prisoner was hanged at Yasuj's central prison on Sunday January 24... In another official report by Khabar Online, the execution of a prisoner in Kermanshah (western Iran) for the alleged murder of the Friday Prayer Imam of Savojbolagh (a county in the province of Alborz, northern Iran) was confirmed by the Iranian Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohsen Eje'i." http://t.uani.com/1QpFwu8
Opinion & Analysis
Amnesty International: "Scores of youths in Iran are languishing on death row for crimes committed under the age of 18, said Amnesty International in a new report published today. The report debunks recent attempts by Iran's authorities to whitewash their continuing violations of children's rights and deflect criticism of their appalling record as one of the world's last executioners of juvenile offenders. 'Growing Up on Death Row: The Death Penalty and Juvenile Offenders in Iran' reveals that Iran has continued to consign juvenile offenders to the gallows, while trumpeting as major advances, piecemeal reforms that fail to abolish the death penalty against juvenile offenders. 'This report sheds light on Iran's shameful disregard for the rights of children. Iran is one of the few countries that continues to execute juvenile offenders in blatant violation of the absolute legal prohibition on the use of the death penalty against people under the age of 18 years at the time of the crime,' said Said Boumedouha, deputy director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Program. 'Despite some juvenile justice reforms, Iran continues to lag behind the rest of the world, maintaining laws that permit girls as young as nine and boys as young as 15 to be sentenced to death.' In recent years the Iranian authorities have celebrated changes to the country's 2013 Islamic Penal Code that allow judges to replace the death penalty with an alternative punishment based on a discretionary assessment of juvenile offenders' mental growth and maturity at the time of the crime. However, these measures are far from a cause for celebration. In fact, they lay bare Iran's ongoing failure to respect a pledge that it undertook over two decades ago, when it ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), to abolish the use of death penalty against juvenile offenders completely. As a state party to the CRC Iran is legally obliged to treat everyone under the age of 18 as a child and ensure that they are never subject to the death penalty nor to life imprisonment without possibility of release. However, Amnesty International's report lists 73 executions of juvenile offenders which took place between 2005 and 2015. According to the UN at least 160 juvenile offenders are currently on death row. The true numbers are likely to be much higher as information about the use of the death penalty in Iran is often shrouded in secrecy. Amnesty International has been able to identify the names and location of 49 juvenile offenders at risk of the death penalty in the report. Many were found to have spent, on average, about seven years on death row. In a few cases documented by Amnesty International, the time that juvenile offenders spent on death row exceeded a decade. 'The report paints a deeply distressing picture of juvenile offenders languishing on death row, robbed of valuable years of their lives - often after being sentenced to death following unfair trials, including those based on forced confessions extracted through torture and other ill-treatment,' said Boumedouha. In a number of cases the authorities have scheduled the executions of juvenile offenders and then postponed them at the last minute, adding to the severe anguish of being on death row. Such treatment is at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading." http://t.uani.com/1ZQ9JFk
UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran Ahmed Shaheed: "On January 12, 2015, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child concluded its review of Iran's third and fourth periodic reports on the implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. For two days UN committee members reviewed information received and asked questions about a wide variety of important topics ranging from child marriage to health and educational opportunities for children, including Afghan refugees. Iran is one of a handful of countries that still executes child offenders, or boys and girls under 18 years of age at the time they commit a crime. Iran's judiciary continues to sentence child offenders to death, and carry out their execution by hanging, despite the fact that Iran adhered to the treaty in 1991 and its parliament ratified it three years later. In 2015 human rights groups documented at least three executions of child offenders, with at least 160 others awaiting the same fate on death row. During their response, Iranian officials spent a significant portion of their time asserting that changes in the country's penal and criminal procedure codes in 2013 and 2015, respectively, and initiatives like the National Action Plan for Children implemented in 2009, have allowed judges more discretion in replacing death sentences for child offenders with other measures. They noted, however, that more scientific studies conducted by experts and training are required to ensure that lawyers and judges consider the best interest of the child, acknowledged that change will not happen overnight, and cited their government's decision to submit to committee review as proof of Iran's willingness to constructively engage with UN human rights mechanisms. Notwithstanding the fact that the number of child offenders executed in 2014-15 are actually higher than at any time during the past five years, Iran should recognize that on an issue as important as this, cooperation and piecemeal reform are not enough. Though Iranian officials may quibble with the numbers cited by rights groups, they simply cannot sidestep the fact that Iran's laws, as written, allow for the execution of child offenders. The bottom line is that today Iranian judges can, and have, sentenced girls as young as nine lunar years and boys as young as 15 lunar years to death by hanging, in plain violation one of the most fundamental and sacrosanct rights recognized under international law. This is why I join the members of the committee in calling on the government of Iran to take more drastic and immediate measures to ensure that from this day on no child offenders are executed in Iran, regardless of the nature of their crime." http://t.uani.com/1OVEljo