Iran Supreme Court Overturns Rapper Toomaj Salehi's Death Sentence


The International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) has welcomed the decision of the Supreme Court of the Islamic Republic of Iran to overturn the death sentence handed down in the case of the rapper Toomaj Salehi who was sentenced under Iran's penal code for alleged 'corruption on earth'. However, the IBAHRI continues to condemn outright death sentences meted out in Iran, and in addition to any executions taking place in the country.

Mr Salehi was first arrested on 30 October 2022, after posting videos of himself protesting in support of Iran's 'Women, Life, Freedom' movement in the aftermath of the death of Mahsa Amini who died in police custody after being arrested by Iran's Basij forces, the morality police, for allegedly violating mandatory hijab law by wearing her hijab 'improperly' while she was visiting Tehran from Saqqez.

On 18 November 2023, Mr Salehi was released on bail but re-arrested days later after uploading a video online documenting his treatment in detention, during which he alleged physical and psychological torture by interrogators, with a prolonged period in solitary confinement.

On 23 April 2024, Branch 1 of the Isfahan Revolutionary Court sentenced Mr Salehi to death for alleged crimes including 'participating in rebelling against state', 'gathering and colluding against national security', and 'propaganda against state'. The charges were said to amount to 'corruption on earth', which is punishable by death under the Islamic Penal Code. On 22 June 2024, the Supreme Court overturned the death sentence on the basis that it was excessive and contrary to Iranian law.

IBAHRI Co-chair and Immediate Past Secretary General of the Swedish Bar Association, Anne Ramberg Dr Jur hc, commented: 'The IBAHRI opposes the inhuman and cruel punishment of the death penalty in all circumstances. While we welcome the Supreme Court's decision in Toomaj Salehi's case, it has been well documented that the Iranian authorities' response to the 'Women, Life, Freedom' protests have been met with force so brutal it defies comprehension. Clearly, the death penalty is being used as a tool of repression to create fear and to attempt to silence, protestors and dissidents. Mr Salehi's case is emblematic of this. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr Salehi and all those imprisoned in Iran simply for speaking out for freedom and human rights. Also, we condemn unreservedly death sentences and executions and demand the abolition of both in Iran.'

Ms Ramberg added: 'Furthermore, we remind authorities that Iran is a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which enshrines the right to life [Article 6], the right to a fair trial [Article 14], and the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment [Article 7].'

According to Iran Human Rights, at least 243 people have been executed in in Iran in 2024 thus far. Other commentators state that in 2023, more than 853 people were executed and that of this figure, at least 481 people were killed for drug-related charges -; this being an 89 per cent increase compared to 255 executions in 2022. This spike was a major factor in the surge in recorded executions across the world in 2023. According to Harm Reduction International, 98 per cent of known drug-related death sentences worldwide in 2023 took place in Iran.

IBAHRI Co-Chair, Mark Stephens CBE, stated: 'To the limited extent that the death penalty is permitted under international law, Article 6(2) of the ICCPR requires that it be reserved for "the most serious crimes." In its General Comment No. 36 (2018), the United Nations Human Rights Committee has held that this term must be read restrictively, relating only to crimes of extreme gravity involving intentional killing. Acts that do not result directly and intentionally in death, such as drug-related offences and blasphemy, cannot serve as the basis for the death penalty. Iran is unambiguously in violation of the legally binding Covenant.'

Mr Stephens continued: 'In a recent report to the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, outlined a litany of human rights abuses by the Iranian authorities, including torture-tainted confessions, due process violations, "an ongoing atmosphere of intimidation, coercion, and repression against lawyers, human rights defenders, and the families of protest victims", and reports of government interference with the independence of the Iranian Bar Association. Without ensuring an independent legal profession and without respect for human rights rulers demonstrate that they are not working in the interests of their nation. Therefore, we call on the international community to use all possible avenues to hold Iran to account for its violations of international human rights law.'

The UN-appointed independent experts, the Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Morris Tidball-Binz, and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Dr Alice Jill Edwards, have argued that 'although international law permits the death penalty in very limited circumstances, in practice it is almost impossible for states to impose the death penalty while complying with human rights obligations, including the absolute and universal prohibition of torture'.

The latest in a series of arrests in connection to the 2022 'Women, Life, Freedom' movement protests and sentenced to death include:

  • Shahriar Bayat, sentenced on 4 April 2024 by Branch 13 of the Tehran Criminal Court on blasphemy charges, purportedly related to the publication of images and posts on social media.
  • Mahmoud Mehrabi, an activist for justice and against corruption, sentenced in May 2024 by the Isfahan Revolutionary Court for 'corruption on earth'.'

According to reports, Iranian authorities have carried out nine executions, overturned 11 death penalty convictions, and handed out 25 death sentences in relation to protests since April 2024.

/Public Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) might be of the point-in-time nature, and edited for clarity, style and length. Mirage.News does not take institutional positions or sides, and all views, positions, and conclusions expressed herein are solely those of the author(s).View in full here.