10 January 2007
Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Leandro Despouy, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, and Manfred Nowak, the Special Rapporteur on torture, issued the following statement today. They are independent experts appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The UN Human Rights Council's experts on extrajudicial executions, independence of judges and lawyers and torture today urged the Iranian Government to “stop the imminent execution of seven men belonging to the Ahwazi Arab minority and grant them a fair and public hearing”.
Philip Alston, Leandro Despouy and Manfred Nowak, the UN independent experts, called the attention of the international community to the case of ten men who were sentenced to death after a secret trial before a court in the Western Iranian province of Khuzestan. Their lawyers were not allowed to see the defendants prior to their trial, and were given access to the prosecution case only hours before the start of the trial. The lawyers were also intimidated by charges of “threatening national security” being brought against them. The convictions were reportedly based on confessions extorted under torture. “The only element of the cases of these men not shrouded in secrecy was the broadcast on public television of their so-called confessions”, Mr. Nowak said.
The three experts indicated that in August and November 2006 they had sent two letters to the Government of Iran, bringing the allegations of unfair trial and torture to their attention and seeking clarification from the Government. No reply to these letters was ever received. Instead, three of the ten men were executed in mid-December with no regard for the strong concerns expressed on behalf of the UN Human Rights Council. On Monday, January 8th, 2007, the authorities in Ahwaz, the capital of Khuzestan province, informed the families of the remaining seven men that they would be executed within the next few days.
“We are fully aware that these men are accused of serious crimes, including having tried to overthrow the Government after having received military training by US and UK forces”, the UN experts said. “However, this cannot justify their conviction and execution after trials that made a mockery of due process requirements.”
The three men executed in mid-December (named Malek Banitamim, Abdullah Solymani and Ali Matorizadeh) and the seven reportedly at imminent risk of execution are part of a larger group of Ahwazi Arab activists arrested in June 2006 on charges of having received training in Iraq by officials of the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Israel, and of having returned to Iran with the intent to destabilize the country, to sabotage oil installations and to overthrow the Government. In the course of the year 2006, the Special Rapporteur on summary executions has raised his concerns regarding unfair trials on capital charges also with regard to ten other Ahwazi Arabs, as well as other Iranians accused of violently opposing the Government. The Government of Iran systematically refuses to provide information and engage in a dialogue on these matters with the independent experts, violating its obligations under the procedures of the Human Rights Council.
Iran is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and has a legal obligation to respect its provisions. While the Covenant allows it to retain the death penalty, it prescribes that capital punishment can only be imposed after a trial satisfying the strictest fair trial guarantees. These include the right to a fair and public hearing, the right not to be compelled to confess guilt, and the right to “adequate time and facilities for the preparation of ones defence” with the assistance of a lawyer of ones own choosing.
In their correspondence with the Government of Iran, the UN independent experts also expressed their concerns about the charges of “mohareb”, which according to the reports published in the Iranian media triggered the application of the death penalty in these cases. “Mohareb” can be translated as “being at war with God” and is a charge typically waged by the Iranian prosecutors against political dissidents, critics of the Government and persons accused of espionage. This charge carries with it the risk of being too vague to satisfy the very strict standards of legality set by international human rights law for the imposition and execution of the death penalty.
The names of the seven men at imminent risk of execution are reported as Ghasem Salami, Mohammad Lazem Kaabpour, Abdolamir Farjolah Kaab, Alireza Asakereh, Majad Albughbish, Abdolreza Sanawati, and Khalaf Dohrab Khanafereh.