Children's Rights: A Historical Perspective
By: D.W. Duke
It is perhaps ironic that Iran, a nation whose government is one of the worst violators of human rights in modern times, was actually the birthplace of a document many historians consider to have been the first charter on human rights. Written by Cyrus the Great, King of Iran in 539 BCE, the charter was discovered in 1878 in Babylon and was published by the United Nations in 1971.
Even by today's standards the document expresses some of the most advanced concepts of humanitarian law. The following is an excerpt from this amazing writing. (Note that Cyrus the Great believed that he would eventually become King of Persia forever.
So although he was already crowned king, he refers to a time from his crowning until the time that he would receive his permanent kingdom.) "Now that I put the crown of kingdom of Iran, Babylon, and the nations of the four directions on the head with the help of (Ahura) Mazda, I announce that I will respect the traditions, customs and religions of the nations of my empire and never let any of my governors and subordinates look down on or insult them until I am alive.
From now on, till (Ahura) Mazda grants me the kingdom favor, I will impose my monarchy on no nation. Each is free to accept it, and if any one of them rejects it, I never resolve on war to reign. Until I am the king of Iran, Babylon, and the nations of the four directions, I never let anyone oppress any others, and if it occurs, I will take his or her right back and penalize the oppressor.
And until I am the monarch, I will never let anyone take possession of movable and landed properties of the others by force or without compensation. Until I am alive, I prevent unpaid, forced labor.
Today, I announce that everyone is free to choose a religion.
People are free to live in all regions and take up a job provided that they never violate other's rights.No one could be penalized for his or her relatives' faults. I prevent slavery and my governors and subordinates are obliged to prohibit exchanging men and women as slaves within their own ruling domains. Such a traditions should be exterminated the world over.
I implore to (Ahura) Mazda to make me succeed in fulfilling my obligations to the nations of Iran (Persia), Babylon, and the ones of the four directions."
Despite this expression of human rights over 2500 years ago, the idea of humanitarian law did not begin to find acceptance in international law until the last century. Prior to that time, international law concerned elationships between nations and individual human rights were the exclusively the subject of national interest and not international law.
Thus, for centuries the view in the free world was that human rights violations occurring in another nation were exclusively the concern of that nation, and there should be no interference with a overeign nation in the manner in which it treats its citizens.International law began to recognize human rights in the early part of the 20th Century, but it wasn't until the horrific tragedies of the Holocaust that governments of the free world began to realize that there are certainsituations where free nations may be required to step forward to protect the rights of citizens against abuses by their own government.
This view had been expressed Hugo Grotius and other scholars in the 17th Century buthad not been widely accepted as a legitimate view of international law until WWII. During this war citizens of the world began to recognize a responsibility to help others who suffer under totalitarian regimes and international law finally began to focus on human rights with the prosecution of war criminals in the Nuremburg trials.
But even at this date, the free nations of the world are slow to take action against other nations where human rights violations occur. As a result, private citizens have been forced to take an active role in protecting the rights of those who suffer abuses of totalitarian regimes.The rights of children began to achieve international recognition in the early part of the 20th Century.
The first text addressing the rights of children in international law was adopted in 1924 when the League of Nations passed a resolution endorsing the Declaration of the Rights of the Child that was first promoted in 1923 as the NGO "Save the Children" campaign. This became known as the "Declaration of Geneva." In 1948 it formed the basis for the Declaration adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations and in 1959 became the Declaration of the Rights of the Child.
The by-product of this agenda to protect the rights of children ultimately became the United Nations "Convention on the Rights of the Child." Widely heralded as an extraordinary product of human rights enthusiasts, the Convention received only a lukewarm reception in the United States. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the General Assembly on November 20, 1989.
As of this date only two nations of the world have not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Those nations are the United States and Somalia.
Today the Stop Child Execution Campaign has taken up the fight to protect children from horrific abuses at the hand of modern totalitarian regimes. Sadly, the primary nation addressed by the Stop Child Executions Campaignis the same nation that was the birthplace of the charter written by Cyrus the Great discussed above.
Not only does the Islamic Republic of Iran routinely execute children for actions deemed to be capital offenses, which are often nothing more than holding a religious belief contrary to the official state religion of Islam as that religion is interpreted by this regime, but where the minor is a female virgin, the night before her execution she is raped by a prison guard.
The next day a cleric prepares a marriage certificate which is sent to the girl's family along with a box of candy, as a wedding gift, after the execution is completed.
This act of rape is committed by official decree of the Supreme leader of Iran Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei and is designed to prevent the female fromgoing to heaven as a virgin.
It is reported that some of the minors executed in Iran have been under the age of 13 years at the time of their execution and one girl was only 10 years of age.
Due to international pressure Iran has begun a practice of detaining those sentenced to death until they reach the age of 18 years then carrying out the execution at that time. However, it is known that some minors arestill being executed before reaching the age of 18 as in the recent case of one of two persons executed for alleged homosexual activity, who was only 17 at the time of his execution. However, even where a minor convicted of a crime is executed after reaching the age of 18 years, the execution is still a violation of Article 37(a) of the United Nations "Convention on the Rights of the Child" which provides in pertinent part: .
"[No] capital punishment... shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age".
Iran is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child but refuses to abide by its terms and thus, is inviolation of international law.
Nazanin Afshin Jam and the "Stop Child Executions Campaign" have issued urgent pleas to all people of the world to denounce these horrendous atrocities and to raise a united voice in opposition to child executions in Iran and in every nation where such horrendous acts occur.
Please join in this important effort by signing the petition at www.stopchildexecutions.com.
Your voice is needed for many voices of children are crying.