Outraged UN rights experts call for end to death penalty in Iran

Credit: OHCHR

5 June 2014 – A group of United Nations human rights experts today expressed outrage at the recent executions of two prisoners in Iran, and urged the Government to institute a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to abolishing it all together.

According to Iranian officials, Gholamreza Khosravi Savadjani was sentenced to death for “Moharabeh” (enmity against God) for allegedly sharing information and possibly providing financial assistance to a London-based TV station supposed to be affiliated with the Mujadiheen-e Khalq (MKO) organization.

Despite international appeals, Mr. Khosravi, a political prisoner, was executed on 1 June. He was originally arrested in 2008 and sentenced to six years in prison for alleged espionage, but was re-tried in 2011.

“The execution of an individual for the alleged offence of transmitting information and providing financial assistance to a dissident organization is simply illegal,” said the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns.

The human rights expert stressed that “the death penalty is an extreme form of punishment and, if used at all, should only be imposed for the most serious crimes, after a fair trial that respects the most stringent due process guarantees as stipulated in international human rights law.”

The Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, added that Mr. Khosravi’s execution shows “the complete disregard of the Iranian judicial system for international fair trial standards and due process guarantees.”

For the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, Frank La Rue, “the imposition of such an extreme sentence against a political activist is an alarming signal of the restrictions to freedom of expression in Iran.”

The experts further noted that the execution of Mr. Khosravi is not only contrary to international human rights law, but is also contrary to the new Islamic Penal Code, which came into force last year and prohibits the use of capital punishment for Moharebeh in cases that do not involve the use of weapons.

“It is beyond comprehension that Mr. Khosravi was tried twice for the same acts and with the same evidence,” said the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ahmed Shaheed. “This is not only contrary to international human rights standards but also Iran’s domestic law.”

The imposition of the death penalty against Mr. Khosravi comes days after the execution of former businessman Mah Afrid Amir Khosravi, allegedly accused of large-scale financial corruption.

“The fight against corruption by no means justifies the execution of individuals on charges of embezzlement, especially when serious questions about the transparency and fairness of trials remain,” Mr. Shaheed underscored.

In April, Mr. Shaheed issued a strong call on the Government of Iran to halt a scheduled execution of Reyhaneh Jabbari, an Iranian woman said to be the victim of physical and sexual assault, but who stood accused of murder.

At that time, the Special Rapporteur noted with concern the spike in executions this year in Iran.

More than 170 persons, including at least two women, have been executed since the beginning of 2014 and a large number of prisoners on death row risk imminent execution.

Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.


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