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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

IRAN: ‘Unfair’ death penalty trials bring growing concern to UN Special Rapporteurs

Karoun Prison in Ahwaz, Iran(WNN) UN GENEVA, Switzerland: Three United Nations Special Rapporteurs* on Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, Christof Heyns and Juan E. Méndez condemned the recent execution of four members of the Ahwazi Arab minority in Ahwaz’s Karoun Prison in the Islamic Republic of Iran. They were sentenced to death and executed on or around 19 June, 2012 following a what advocates have called an “unfair trail.”
“Given the lack of transparency in court proceedings, major concerns remain about due process and fairness of trials in cases involving the death penalty in Iran,” said the independent human rights experts, recalling the execution of Abdul Rahman Heidarian, Abbas Heidarian, Taha Heidarian and Ali Sharif. The four men, three of whom are brothers, were reportedly arrested in April 2011 during a protest in Khuzestan and convicted of Moharebeh (enmity against God) and Fasad-fil Arz (corruption on earth).
“Under international law, the death penalty is the most extreme form of punishment, which, if it is used at all, should be imposed only for the most serious crimes,” they said. “Defendants in death penalty cases should also receive fair trial guarantees stipulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Iran in 1975.”
“Any death sentence undertaken in contravention of those international obligations is tantamount to an arbitrary execution,” the three UN Special Rapporteurs stressed.
Persecution and selective discrimination of Ahwaz Arabs has been occurring for decades in the region. A more recent outline of discrimination against Ahwaz women in Iran was outlined in detail during a United Nations Human Rights Council Forum on Minority Issues by human rights advocate Jamileh Sharhani, herself an Ahwaz Arab minority from Southwestern Iran, last November in Geneva.
“Ahwazi Arabs constitute an indigenous, ethnic, national and linguistic minority in Iran,” said Sharhani in a statement outlining needs for . “Historically this indigenous Arab community, women and men alike, have been marginalized, excluded and discriminated against by successive governments in Iran,” she continued.
According to human rights advocates, it is estimated that 10 percent of all Iranians are Ahwazi Arab today, which equals approximately 8-10 million Iranians.
“Our right to education in our mother language, Arabic, has been denied,” outlined Sharhani. “We have no access to Iran’s justice system as we do not speck the language and are not allowed to take [an] Arabic translator to court,” she continued highlighting the need for adequate representation under Iranian law for all Ahwazi.
Rights experts have also recently noted with concern that a high numbers of executions continue to be carried out in public, despite a circular issued in January 2008 by the Iranian Chief Justice that banned public executions. At least 25 executions have been carried out in public this year.
“Executions in public add to the already cruel, inhuman and degrading nature of the death penalty and can only have a dehumanizing effect on the victim and a brutalizing effect on those who witness the execution,” underscored independent experts.
The Special Rapporteurs have concern that the authorities continue to apply the death penalty with alarming frequency, despite numerous calls to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to establish a moratorium on executions. At least 140 executions are known to have been carried out since the beginning of 2012, with some sources indicating the figure to be as high as 220. The majority of these are for drug-related offenses, which the experts do not believe constitute the “most serious crimes” as required by international law.
The UN independent experts urged the Iranian authorities “to halt immediately the imposition of the death penalty for crimes which do not constitute the most serious crimes, as well as ensure stringent respect for fair trial guarantees.”
SPECIAL NOTE: *The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran is Ahmed Shaheed; the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions is Christof Heyns; and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is Juan E. Méndez.
(This breaking news has been issued in part by the Iranian Human Rights League – FIDH and OHCHR – UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.)

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