Human Rights

Wave of Executions Deepen Iran Human Rights Concerns

Human rights groups are blasting Iran for a wave of executions that this week saw four prisoners hanged in the western city of Kermanshah, two of them women.

Kermanshah has become a central location for the Iranian regime’s public and prison executions.

Iran has one of the world’s worst records for using capital punishment without due trial. In 2012 alone the regime conducted somewhere between 489 and 497 executions. At least 58 of those executions were held in public. China is the only country in the world that conducts more executions.

A recent U.N. report blasted Iranian officials for systemically violating the human rights of their citizens. Iran responded by lashing out against the report’s author:

Ahmed Shaheed’s latest report charges the Islamic republic with cases of torture, executions, illegal arrests of journalists, forced confessions and denial of basic rights to religious, ethnic and sexual minorities. The former foreign affairs minister of the Maldives is extremely critical of the Iranian government for its failure to protect citizens’ rights under the country’s constitution and international obligations as well as fostering a “culture of impunity” for perpetrators…

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, accused Shaheed of “toadying to the US and Israel” with a report that he described as unsubstantiated, biased and collated from “anti-Iranian outlets and terrorist groups”. The Iranian judiciary’s human rights committee also issued a statement on Tuesday, calling the rapporteur’s findings unrealistic and “devised solely for mounting psychological and propagandist pressures” on Tehran.

The State Department has extensively documented Iran’s human rights abuses as well, including in the context of executions, which the regime uses among other things to target political dissidents and Christians:

The law applies the death penalty to offenses such as “attempts against the security of the state,” “outrage against high-ranking officials,” “enmity towards God” (moharebeh), and “insults against the memory of Imam Khomeini and against the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic.” Prosecutors frequently used moharebeh as a criminal charge against political dissidents, referring to struggling against the precepts of Islam and against the state which upholds those precepts. On October 24, Ahmed Shaheed, the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, reported that prosecutors often charged persons arrested for political and human rights-related activities with moharebeh. According to IHRDC, officials executed at least nine persons during the year for moharebeh or related charges.

While the law does not stipulate the death penalty for apostasy, courts have administered such punishment based on their interpretation of fatwas, legal opinions or decrees handed down by an Islamic religious leader. On September 8, authorities released Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, whom a court sentenced to three years in prison in 2010 for “propagating against the regime” after he was originally sentenced to death for apostasy but later acquitted. On December 25, authorities rearrested Nadarkhani, who remained in prison at year’s end.

[Photo: Arash_rk / Flickr]