Three independent United Nations human rights experts have condemned the recent execution of four members of the Ahwazi Arab minority in Iran after a reportedly unfair trial, and called on the Government to halt the use of the death penalty.
Abdul Rahman Heidarian, Abbas Heidarian, Taha Heidarian – who are brothers – and Ali Sharif were reportedly arrested in April 2011 during a protest in the province of Khuzestan and convicted of Moharebeh (enmity against God) and Fasad-fil Arz (corruption on earth), according to a news release issued by the experts.
They were sentenced to death and executed on or around 19 June in Karoun Prison, in the province’s capital, Ahwaz.
“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 three UN Special Rapporteurs – Ahmed Shaheed, Christof Heyns and Juan E. Méndez – who deal with Iran, summary executions and torture, respectively.
“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,” stressed the three experts.
The rights experts noted with concern the high numbers of executions carried out in public – at least 25 this year alone – despite a circular issued in January 2008 by the Iranian Chief Justice banning the practice.
“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,” the experts underscored.
They voiced regret that the authorities continue to apply the death penalty with alarming frequency, despite numerous calls to the Government 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 offences, which the experts do not believe constitute the “most serious crimes” as required by international law.
The 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.”
The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Mr. Shaheed; the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Mr. Heyns; and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Mr. Méndez all serve in an independent and unpaid capacity.
They report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, which appoints experts to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme.