Last Updated: Friday, 19 September 2014, 13:55 GMT

Iran: Death penalty for every case – ethnic protests, prisoners of conscience, drinking alcohol...

Publisher International Federation for Human Rights
Publication Date 3 July 2012
Cite as International Federation for Human Rights, Iran: Death penalty for every case – ethnic protests, prisoners of conscience, drinking alcohol..., 3 July 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/500024e3a.html [accessed 19 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Last Update 3 July 2012

Karim Lahidji, vice president of FIDH and president of LDDHI, said : "The authorities in the Islamic Republic of Iran are relentlessly pursuing their policy of state terror against any form of dissent by imposing and implementing the death penalty. While regularly targeting the ethnic communities, and in particular the Iranian Arabs, Kurds and Baluchis, they keep making frequent use of this inhuman punishment for other 'offences' such as drinking alcohol that do not by any criteria fall under the category of 'the most serious crimes' as required by international law."

At least four young Iranian Arabs were reportedly executed in the southern province of Khuzestan around 18 June 2012. The four victims, three of whom were brothers, had been arrested together with a large number of others, following mass protests in the provincial capital of Ahvaz and other cities of the province, in April 2011. Their families have reported that during the subsequent long period of detention, they were subjected to severe torture and other ill treatment to confess to the killing of one security agent. One of them was shown in self-incriminating televised confessions. Subsequently they were sentenced to death after summary unfair trials on various charges including the vague charges of moharebeh (fighting God) and corruption on earth, apparently without access to proper legal representation.

Several other members of the Arab minority who were tried in May 2012 are also facing similar charges and their lives are in danger.

Many other political prisoners are also on death row after extremely unfair trials that are illegal even under the norms of the highly flawed justice system in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

A notable case is Gholamreza Khosravi Savadjani. Having been charged with providing information and financial assistance to the Iraq-based opposition People's Mujahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI), he is said to have stood trial in the southern city of Rafsanjan in 2007-2008, sentenced by the appeals court to six years imprisonment and served a part of his sentence. Nevertheless, he was tried again for the same charges and sentenced to death in late 2011. The authorities have notified him that his execution has been scheduled for September 2012.

On the other hand, the prosecutor of the north-eastern city of Mashhad announced on 22 June 2012 that the Supreme Court had upheld the death sentences on two people for being convicted for the third time on charge of drinking alcohol, who will be executed in due course.

Background information

* In April 2005, many Iranian Arabs took to the streets in the south-western Khuzestan province in protest against reports about government's plans to change the demographic structure of the province; scores of people were reportedly killed. The protests were followed by a series of bombings and further mass arrests and at least 15 people were reportedly executed.

Since then, the anniversary of April 2005 events has been marked every year by mass protests, arrests of scores of Arab cultural and rights activists and subsequent executions of several protesters in Khuzestan province after unfair trials that regularly fail to meet the international standards of due process. After mass protests in April 2011, at least 9 people were reportedly executed in the province including a 16-year-old juvenile and at least four died in custody, possibly under torture. According to reports of credible international human rights organisations, 50-65 Arab protestors were arrested in the province from January to March 2012. Two detainees have died in custody so far in 2012.

* At least 16 Kurdish political prisoners are on death row in various prisons.

* A number of prisoners are facing the death sentence in Evin Prison of Tehran including 10 in Section 350 of the prison. They include prisoners of conscience such as the web programmers Saeed Malekpour, Ahmad Reza Hashempour and Mehdi Alizadeh Fakhrabad, and several prisoners accused of contacts with the POMI including Abdolreza Ghanbari, an active member of the Teachers Association, whose application for pardon has been rejected.

There are about 20 categories of offences punishable by death in the laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Death sentences are regularly imposed for drugs-related charges, religious charges, charges related to consensual sex between adults of different sexes or of the same sex, and even drinking alcohol, none of which are among the "most serious crimes." There are also vague charges such as moharebeh (fighting God) and corruption on earth. Trials are often, in particular in political cases, extremely unfair, and frequently contravene even the legal norms of the highly flawed justice system, where confessions extracted under torture are admitted in court.

While the Iranian authorities officially acknowledged 360 executions in 2011, information collected by Amnesty International put the total including the officially acknowledged and unacknowledged executions at no less than 634. More than three quarters of the total, i.e. 488 people, were executed on drugs-related charges.

Execution in public, which is additionally a form of torture and incompatible with human dignity, is frequently used. More than 50 – possibly 56 people – were executed in public in 2011, according to Amnesty International's annual Death Penalty Report. In a joint statement issued on 28 June 2012, three UN Special Rapporteurs put the minimum number of public executions so far this year at 25 cases.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a state party, strictly requires that in countries where the death penalty has not been abolished, it should be imposed only for the "most serious crimes." In November 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the body that examines the compliance of member states with the provisions of the ICCPR, once again reminded those provisions to the Islamic Republic of Iran and called on its authorities to prohibit the use of public executions:

"The State party should consider abolishing the death penalty or at least revise the Penal Code to restrict the imposition of the death penalty to only the "most serious crimes" within the meaning of article 6 ... The State party should furthermore prohibit the use of public executions, as well as stoning as a method of execution."

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