At the bi-weekly press briefing on Tuesday, Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office, made the following statement on Iran.
“Criminal proceedings and the death penalty are being weaponized by the Iranian Government to punish individuals participating in protests and to strike fear into the population so as to stamp out dissent, in violation of international human rights law,” she said.
“Four individuals engaged in the recent demonstrations have been executed over the past month following expedited trials that did not meet the minimum guarantees of fair trial and due process required by international human rights law binding on Iran, making their executions tantamount to arbitrary deprivation of life,” she added.
“The High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said the weaponization of criminal procedures to punish people for exercising their basic rights – such as those participating in or organizing demonstrations - amounts to state sanctioned killing,” Shamdasani said.
The Government of Iran would better serve its interests and those of its people by listening to their grievances, and by undertaking the legal and policy reforms necessary to ensure respect for diversity of opinion, the rights to freedom of expression and assembly, and the full respect and protection of the rights of women in all areas of life.
Violations of due process and fair trial guarantees recorded by the UN Human Rights Office include: application of vaguely worded criminal provisions; denial of access to a lawyer of choice and the right to present a defence; forced confessions obtained through torture and ill-treatment; failure to respect the presumption of innocence; and denial of meaningful right to appeal against conviction.
Furthermore, the death sentences were imposed following convictions on charges – such as moharebeh (waging war against God) and efsad-e fel arz (corruption on earth) – that fall far short of ‘the most serious crimes’ as required by international human rights law.
“According to reports, the first of the four executions – that of Mohsen Shekari – was carried out on 8 December 2022. Four days later, Majidreza Rahnavard was executed only 23 days after his arrest on 19 November. On 7 January 2023, Mohammad Mehdi Karami and Mohammad Hosseini were executed. All were executed secretly without their families being informed. This in itself constitutes a violation of international human rights law,” Shamdasani said.
At least 17 others have been reportedly sentenced to death, and up to 100 more face charges for capital crimes.
Thousands have been detained since the nation-wide protests erupted last September following the death of Jina Mahsa Amini, who died shortly after she was arrested for improperly wearing her hijab. Hundreds have died in the government crackdown against the demonstrators.
“Our Office has received information that two further executions are imminent - that of Mohammad Boroughani, aged 19, and Mohammad Ghobadlou, aged 22,” she stated.
“The High Commissioner has reiterated once more our call to the Government of Iran to respect the lives and voices of its people, to impose an immediate moratorium on the death penalty and to halt all executions,” she said.
“Iran must take sincere steps to embark on the reforms that are required and demanded by their own people for the respect and protection of their human rights,” she said.
Mohammad Al Nsour, Chief of Middle east and North Africa with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, answered in response to a question on trial process in Iran: “The main issue here, in addition to the vague definition of the charges, is the proceedings themselves. So a few days between the first instance court, which is the Revolution Court, and the Supreme Court in some cases only one week before the two … between the first instant court decision and the appeal. This is one issue and it is a very serious issue. Fast-track trials without legal guarantees, without appointing a lawyer of their choice, without even access to the files at the Supreme Court, which is also against the international standards.”
“Iran ratified the main human rights instruments, including the International Convention on Civic and Political Rights. And as you know, many Muslim countries registered reservations when it comes to death penalty, Article Six. So, this is one of the issues. However, there is a consensus, there is customary law that even with the death penalty, you have to apply the threshold of the most serious crimes, which is not the case in the context of protests, unfortunately,” he said in comclusion.
For more information and media requests, please contact:
Ravina Shamdasani - + 41 22 917 9169 / firstname.lastname@example.org or
Liz Throssell + 41 22 917 9296 / email@example.com or
Marta Hurtado - + 41 22 917 9466 / firstname.lastname@example.org
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