US in minority on juvenile death penalty

The United States is one of only five countries known to have executed juvenile offenders since 1979: The others are Pakistan, Bangladesh, Rwanda, and Barbados, according to the human rights group Amnesty International. Over 80 countries have either abolished the death penalty or prohibited its use against those accused of committing crimes as children. Amnesty International, which opposes the death penalty for any reason, also notes unconfirmed reports of executions of juveniles in Iran in the early '80s.

``Cutting the [qualifying] age at 16 is very much a disappointment,'' said Joshua Rubenstein, Northeast Regional Director of Amnesty International USA, ``because 18 is clearly the international standard, and by making it at 16, the US clearly falls into the category of executing juvenile offenders.''

The US has signed three international human rights treaties that ban capital punishment for persons convicted of committing crimes under the age of 18:

The 1949 Geneva Convention (covering civilians in time of war).

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (adopted by the United Nations in 1966, ratified by 86 nations, signed by President Carter in 1977).

The American Convention on Human Rights (adopted by the Organization of American States in 1969, also signed by President Carter in 1977).

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