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, UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk said today.
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, he 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,” Türk 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, Türk added, 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. This means crimes of extreme gravity, such as intentional killing.
According to reports, the first of the four executions – that of Mohsen Shekari – was carried out on 8 December 2022. Four days later, Majdireza Rahanavard 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.
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.
The UN Human Rights Office has received information that two further executions are imminent – that of Mohammad Boroughani, aged 19, and Mohammad Ghobadiou, aged 22.
“I reiterate once more my 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,” the High Commissioner for Human Rights 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.”