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Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Press briefing notes on Iran and Bahrain

Briefing: Iran, Bahrain

17 January 2017

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location:      Geneva
Date: 17 January 2017

(1) Iran

We call on the Iranian authorities not to carry out the apparently imminent execution of Sajad Sanjari, who was a juvenile when he was sentenced to death for fatally stabbing a man in 2012.

Sanjari was granted a retrial in 2014 under the provisions of the 2013 Islamic Penal Code. However, in 2015 the provincial criminal court of Kermanshah rejected his argument that he had acted in self-defence following a rape attempt on him and confirmed his death sentence, finding that he had sufficient “mental maturity” to understand his crime. Iran’s Supreme Court upheld the death sentence in August 2016.

Iran remains one of the few countries that execute juvenile offenders despite its obligations under international human rights law which prohibits the use of the death penalty against anyone under 18 years of age, no matter the circumstances or the crime.

At least five juveniles were reportedly executed in Iran last year and at least 78 people reportedly remain on death row for crimes they committed when they were under 18, although the actual figure may be much higher. The execution of juvenile offenders is abhorrent and we urge Iran to end this practice once and for all.

We also reiterate our call to Iran to immediately institute a moratorium on the death penalty, amid serious concerns about the continuing high number of executions and the lack of fair trial and due process guarantees in accordance with international human rights law. The imposition of the death penalty when fair trial guarantees are not respected may constitute a violation of the right to life.

Reports in recent days suggest that a number of people have been executed for drug-related offences. These include 14 people reported to have been hanged at the Central Prison in the city of Karaj and two executed at Rasht central prison on 14 January.

Drug offences clearly do not meet the threshold of most serious crimes under international human rights law for the application of the death penalty, as detailed by the UN Human Rights Committee*, and it is therefore deplorable that executions for drug crimes continue to be carried out in Iran.

(2) Bahrain

We are appalled at the execution by firing squad of three men in Bahrain on Sunday.  The men had been convicted of a bombing in Manama in 2014 that killed three police officers. They were found guilty after being allegedly tortured into making false confessions and their lawyers were not given access to all the evidence against them nor allowed to cross-examine prosecution witnesses during court hearings.

The way the trials were conducted raises serious doubts whether the accused were provided with the right to fair trial, guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – the ICCPR - in particular by Articles 9 and 14.

The executions of Abbas Al-Samea, Ali Al-Singace and Sami Mushaima are the first in Bahrain since 2010. We understand that on 14 January the men’s families were asked to go immediately to the prison but despite making repeated requests for information, they were not told their sons were due to be executed the following day.

We again urge Bahrain to impose a moratorium on the use of the death penalty and to ratify the second optional protocol of the ICCPR that aims to abolish the death penalty definitively.


*In its General Comment No 6: Article 6 Right to life, the UN Human Rights Committee says in paragraph 6: “While …States parties are not obliged to abolish the death penalty totally they are obliged to limit its use and, in particular, to abolish it for other than the “most serious crimes”.

Paragraph 7: “The Committee is of the opinion that the expression “most serious crimes” must be read restrictively to mean that the death penalty should be a quite exceptional measure. It also follows from the express terms of article 6 that it can only be imposed in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime and not contrary to the Covenant. The procedural guarantees therein prescribed must be observed, including the right to a fair hearing by an independent tribunal, the presumption of innocence, the minimum guarantees for the defence, and the right to review by a higher tribunal. These rights are applicable in addition to the particular right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence.”

For more information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / [email protected]) or Liz Throssell  ( +41 22 917 9466 /[email protected] ) or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / [email protected])

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