Human Rights Watch: “Iran: Halt Execution of 33 Sunnis”

Via Human Rights Watch:

The Iranian authorities should quash the death sentences of 33 Sunni Muslim men, including possibly a juvenile offender, convicted of “enmity against God” (moharebeh), and impose an immediate moratorium on all executions, 18 human rights organizations and one prominent human rights lawyer said today. The call comes amid serious concerns about the fairness of the legal proceedings that led to the men’s convictions and the high number of executions reported in Iran during the last year, including the June 1, 2014 hanging of a political dissident, Gholamreza Khosravi Savadjani, on the same charge.

Information the rights groups gathered suggests that most of the men were arrested by Intelligence Ministry officials in the western province of Kordestan in 2009 and 2010, and held in solitary confinement during their pretrial detention for several months without access to a lawyer or relatives. They are believed to have been tortured or otherwise ill-treated during that time.

Thirty one of them were tried by Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran, while one was tried by Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran and another by a branch of the Revolutionary Court of Sanandaj. They were sentenced to death after being convicted of vaguely worded national security offenses including “gathering and colluding against national security,” “spreading propaganda against the system,” “membership in Salafist groups,” “corruption on earth,” and “enmity against God.” The latter two charges can carry the death penalty.

These vaguely worded offenses in Iran’s Islamic Penal Code do not meet the requirements for clarity and precision that international law outlines for criminal law. The authorities, routinely invoke them to arrest and imprison people who have peacefully exercised their rights to freedom of religion, expression, association, and assembly, or to accuse activists of supporting violent or armed opposition groups without evidence, the rights groups said.

 Information gathered by the rights groups suggests that all of the men deny any involvement in armed or violent activities and maintain that they were targeted solely because they practiced or promoted their faith, such as taking part in religious seminars and distributing religious reading materials. Sunni Muslims are a minority in Iran, where most Muslims follow the Shia branch of Islam. Most Iranian Sunnis are from the Kurdish and Baluch minorities, and have long complained of state discrimination against them in both law and practice.

Recent changes to Iran’s penal code require the judiciary to review the cases of the 33 men, and vacate their death sentences on the charge of “enmity against God” if they had not personally resorted to the use of arms. The execution of Gholamreza Khosravi Savadjani, despite no evidence being presented to the court that he had used arms, suggests that Iranian authorities appear not to implement new provisions of the penal code that could save the lives of these 33 men, and others on death row on the charge of “enmity against God.”

According to his national identity card, at least one of the defendants, Borzan Nasrollahzadeh, is believed to have been under 18 at the time of his alleged offense, which would prohibit his execution under international law, including under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Iran is a party.

Read the rest of the report here.

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About Kaveh Mousavi

Kaveh Mousavi is the pseudonym of an atheist ex-Muslim living in Iran, subject to one of the world’s remaining theocracies. He is a student of English Literature, an aspiring novelist, and part-time English teacher. He is passionate about politics, video games, heavy metal music, and cinema. He was born at the tenth anniversary of the Islamic Revolution of Iran. He has ditched the Islamic part, but has kept some of the revolutionary spirit.


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