Iran should declare immediate moratorium on all executions

Iran should declare immediate moratorium on all executions

Azerbaijan, Baku, Feb. 17 /Trend T.Konyayeva/

Other nations and the UN should demand Iran to end immediately these executions and respect its obligations under international law, and the Iranian Judiciary and Parliament should institute an immediate moratorium on all executions in Iran, the Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi and six human rights organizations saidinthe official statement of the Iran Human Rights.

"The Iranian authorities have shown that they are no longer content to repress those contesting the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by arresting and convicting them - they have shown they will now resort to execution," Ebadi saidin the official statement.

At least 86 people have been executed since the start of 2011, according to information received by the six organizations. They are Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters without Borders, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, the International Federation for Human Rights, and its affiliate, the Iranian League for the Defence of Human Rights. At least eight of those executed in January were political prisoners, convicted of "enmity against God" (moharebeh) for participating in demonstrations, or for their alleged links to opposition groups.

"They are using the familiar tactic of carrying out political executions at the same time as mass executions of prisoners convicted of criminal offences. These executions may increase if the world is silent," Ebadi added.

According to the statement, the increase in executions follows the entry into force in late December 2010 of an amended anti-narcotics law, drafted by the Expediency Council and approved by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iranian officialshave also vowed to step up enforcement measures against drug trafficking. Sixty-seven of those executed in January had been convicted of drug trafficking.

"The true number of executions may be even higher as there are credible reports that some executions that are not officially announced are taking place in prisons," the international human rights organizations underscored.

Another prisoner executed in January was Dutch-Iranian citizen Zahra Bahrami. The prosecutor's office charged her with drug possession and trafficking but her family said she had been arrested for participating in a post-election demonstration. Bahrami had no right to an appeal, as her death sentence was confirmed by the Prosecutor General's office. Despite the intervention of the Dutch authorities and calls by the European Union not to execute her, authorities executed her without warning. They did not allow her to meet with her lawyer or provide the legally required 48 hour notice prior to her execution.

According to Ebadi, the authorities have for years arrested and tried their opponents on politically motivated criminal charges such as possession of alcohol or drugs and illegal possession of arms.

"They have imprisoned lawyers and journalists, some of them my colleagues, on such trumped-up charges,"she said. "Given the sharp rise in executions, the lack of transparency in the Iranian judicial system and recent changes in the narcotics law, there is a great danger that authorities will use ordinary criminal charges to sentence opponents to death."

The recent executions also raise fears for the lives of two men, Said Malekpour and Vahid Asgari, believed to have been sentenced to death by Revolutionary Courts following separate unfair trials in which they were accused of "spreading corruption on earth."

On January 30, the Tehran Prosecutor, Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi, announced that the death sentences of two unnamed "administrators of obscene websites" had been sent to the Supreme Court for review. Human rights activists in Iran believe that he was referring to Malekpour and Asghari.

Saeed Malekpour, a 35-year-old web designer and permanent resident of Canada, was sentenced to death at the end of November 2010 for creating "pornographic" internet sites and "insulting the sanctity of Islam". Prior to his arrest during a family visit to Iran in 2008, he had created a programme enabling the user to upload photos. That programme had then been used to post pornographic images, which he said had happened without his knowledge. He is alleged to have been tortured while being held for more than a year in solitary confinement in Evin Prison.

Vahid Asghari, a 24-year-old information technology student enrolled at a university in India, has also been detained since 2008 and reportedly tortured. He is believed to have been tried in late 2010, but the verdict has never been officially announced.

There is also concern surrounding the case of Yousef Nadarkhani. Authorities arrested Yousef Nadarkhani, a pastor in a 400-member church in northern Iran, in October 2009. He was sentenced to death in September 2010 for "apostasy from Islam", despite the fact that no such crime currently exists under Iran's penal code. His sentence is currently under appeal before the Supreme Court.

Freedom of religion and belief is guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), of which Iran is a state party. The covenant includes the right to change one's religion.

Article 6 (2) of the ICCPR states: "In countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime and not contrary to the provisions of the present Covenant and to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This penalty can only be carried out pursuant to a final judgement rendered by a competent court."

Iran has never signed the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, and has voted against successive resolutions by the UN General Assembly calling for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, most recently in December.

Iran executes more people than any country other than China, the statement reads. The hundreds, may be thousands, of prisoners currently on death row may include more than 140 who were under the age of 18 at the time they allegedly committed their offence. International law prohibits the execution of persons for offences that they committed while under 18.

Since 1979, Iran has executed thousands of men, women and even children for a variety of alleged offences.

Human rights organizations, including the above-mentioned six, have documented numerous human rights abuses during detention and trials. These violations include psychological and physical pressure, amounting to torture, to force prisoners to "confess" to alleged crimes, the use of extended solitary confinement, and lack of access to lawyers.

In addition, the Revolutionary Courts hold most of their trials behind closed doors, despite a requirement under Article 168 of the Iranian Constitution that trials for "political" and "press" offences should be open.

In many cases, such as Zahra Bahrami's, lawyers of those sentenced to death are informed of their clients' executions only after they have taken place, despite the legal requirement for 48 hours' notice.

Iran has made consistent efforts to obstruct scrutiny of the situation in the country by international human rights mechanisms over the past five years. Given that, Shirin Ebadi and the organizations called on other nations to take advantage of the forthcoming session of the Human Rights Council to appoint a special envoy of the UN Secretary-General with a mandate to investigate and report on human rights conditions in Iran, the statement said.

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