Human Rights

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Iran Rejects U.N. Criticism of Death Penalty Amid Spike in Executions, Arrest of Activist

Iran rejected criticism of its use of the death penalty made by United Nations officials last week, calling it a “downright lie,” The Jerusalem Post reported yesterday. The criticism comes amid an increase in executions in Iran as well as the arrest of a prominent anti-death penalty activist.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham called the execution accusations a “downright lie,” adding that “reliance on the estimated figures without any source or sources” make such claims invalid, reported Tasnim.

“It’s a great pity that the trend of the special rapporteur’s activities suggest that he does not seek credible evidence, and despite the reports and documents issued by Iran, such claims are continuously repeated with quite political purposes,” argued Afkham. …

“The Islamic Republic of Iran calls on the special rapporteur not to include traffickers, murderers, and those who have committed terrorist crimes in the list of political prisoners,” continued the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman.

Last week, two U.N. officials—Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, and Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions—criticized Iran’s use of the death penalty.

When the Iranian government refuses to even acknowledge the full extent of executions which have occurred, it shows a callous disregard for both human dignity and international human rights law,” Ahmed Shaheed, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, stressed in a press release issued earlier today.

According to a UN human rights report released last year, the new Islamic Penal Code that entered into force in 2013 now omits references to apostasy, witchcraft and heresy, but continues to allow for juvenile executions and retains the death penalty for activities that do not constitute most serious crimes in line with the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty such as adultery, repeated alcohol use, and drug possession and trafficking. …

“We are alarmed by the recent surge in the number of executions, which has occurred despite serious questions about fair trial standards,” added Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions. “Many of the prisoners executed during this period were charged with drug-related offences, which do not involve intentional killing and hence do not meet the threshold of the ‘most serious crimes’.”

Iran has never allowed Shaheed into the country to investigate.

Both rapporteurs also criticized Iran for its continued use of public executions, saying that the practice had “’a dehumanising effect on both the victim and those who witness the execution’ and ultimately reinforced the ‘already cruel, inhuman and degrading nature of the death penalty.’”

According to the U.N., as many as 98 executions were carried out in Iran between April 9 and 26, an average of six a day.

Acitivist Nargez Mohammadi, who was jailed again by Iranian authorities last week, is also an outspoken opponent of the death penalty. The BBC reported:

In 2012, after suffering severe ill-health, Ms Mohammadi was granted leave to serve the remainder of a six-year prison sentence at home.

But last week while the children were at school, intelligence officials came to the house, with no warning or explanation, and took her back to jail.

One of the charges levelled against Ms Mohammadi was that she was running an “illegal group” campaigning against the death penalty.

[Photo: Ali Goli / YouTube ]