NCRI – In Amnesty International’s report on death penalty statistics across the globe in 2012, the section on Iran once again makes for grim reading. The Iranian regime under the mullahs’ rule has the highest number of execution per capita in the world.
At least 314 executions were officially acknowledged by the authorities in 2012, but the real number is almost certainly much higher. More than 200 additional executions were reported to Amnesty International by reliable sources.
Below is the full text of report on Iran:
Iran is second only to China worldwide in the number of executions carried out each year.
The number of executions remained high in 2012, especially for drug-related crimes, along with the politicized use of death sentences against members of minorities and opponents of the government, and for other crimes that are not considered “most serious” under international law.
Death sentences were typically imposed following proceedings that violate
fair trial standards, including the use of forced “confessions” as evidence, and under the Anti-Narcotics Law, defendants were effectively denied the right to an appeal in all instances.
Iran continued to impose death sentences on juvenile offenders, in violation of international law.
The Iranian authorities do not provide official statistics on their use of the death penalty and there is credible evidence that large numbers of executions are carried out in secret.
Although 314 executions were officially acknowledged by Iranian authorities or state controlled or -sanctioned media, reliable sources reported at least 230 additional executions.
This would bring the total for 2012 to at least 544.
At least 79 new death sentences were imposed and officially acknowledged by the authorities, but reliable sources reported at least 37 additional ones. The true number is almost certainly much higher.
At least three women were executed. No executions of juvenile offenders could be confirmed.
Reports from official sources appear to indicate that up to four executed may have been aged under 18 at the time of the alleged crimes, but this could not be verified. However, according to official sources, at least two juvenile offenders were sentenced to death.
At least 63 executions were carried out in public, again a rise: in 2011, such executions were recorded; in 2010 it was 14.
The authorities appeared to believe that public executions deter
crime and protest by spreading fear among those who witness them.
The scope of the death penalty in Iran remained broad and included, among others, murder, “adultery while married”, “apostasy”, “sodomy”, as well as the vaguely worded offences of “enmity against God” (moharebeh) and “corruption on earth” (ifsad fil-arz).
In June, Iran’s Supreme Court upheld death sentences for two men found guilty for a third time of drinking alcohol.
At least 223 executions, or 71 % of all officially acknowledged executions in 2012, were for drug offences. Under Iranian law, the death penalty is mandatory in cases of possession or trafficking of more than a specified amount of various drugs, and those convicted of drug offences are not permitted an opportunity to exercise their right to a review by a higher tribunal, as required by international law. Article 32 of the Anti-Narcotics Law stipulates that those sentenced to death for drug offences will only have their convictions and sentences confirmed by either the President of the Supreme Court or the Prosecutor-General. In practice, it seems that many such death sentences are referred to the Prosecutor-General.
Throughout 2012, concerns continued to be raised about financial and technical assistance provided to Iran through bilateral and UN drug enforcement aid programmes which, although intended to help seize drugs and arrest suspected traffickers, may actually be facilitating the capture and subsequent execution of people for drug offences.
Saeed Sedeghi was executed on 22 October. He had been sentenced to death in May for participating, with three other men, in the purchase and possession of 512kg of methamphetamine. His state-appointed lawyer had no contact with him, or access to his case file, before his trial. Saeed Sedeghi was ordered to pay a fine of two million Rials (approximately US$163) and sentenced to 20 lashes for individual possession of 21g of opium and marijuana. In December 2010, amendments to the Anti-Narcotics Law had extended the scope of the death penalty to include additional categories of illegal drugs (including metham phetamine – “crystaImeth”).
According to Saeed Sedeghi’s family, he had been tortured in prison, including being subjected to mock execution, and had three teeth knocked out. Saeed Sedeghi also told his family that while in prison he had been ordered to “confess” his guilt in front of a camera but had refused to do so. Following the execution, his body was returned to his family, but the authorities warned them not to speak to the media and barred them from holding a public funeral ceremony. On 11 October, Saeed Sedeghi’s brother, Majid Sedeghi, was arrested after giving interviews to BBC Persian and Voice of America about his brother’s plight. He was released on bail four days later, but may face charges and a trial in the future.
The crime of “enmity against God” (moharebeh) is aimed at armed insurrection or, more generally, the resort to armed, violent activities. Anyone found responsible for taking up arms, whether for criminal purposes or against the state, or even belonging to an organization taking up arms against the state, may be considered guilty of “enmity against God”.
However, the provision can and has been applied to cases where the accused may not have taken up arms, but rather were allegedly members of, or associated with, organizations that have been proscribed in Iran. This includes those linked to political bodies claiming to represent one of Iran’s ethnic minorities, such as the Ahwazi Arab, Baluchi or Kurdish minorities.
At least 19 Kurdish men were believed to be under sentence of death in connection with their alleged membership of, and activities for, proscribed Kurdish organizations.
On or around 19 June, Taha Heidarian and three other members of Iran’s Ahwazi Arab minority were executed after reportedly being convicted of “enmity against God and corruption on earth ‘ in connection with the killing of a law enforcement official in April 2011 amid widespread protests in Khuzestan, south-west Iran. Their bodies were not returned to their families. On 7 July, five other men were sentenced to death in connection with their activities on behalf of the Ahwazi Arab minority. They had been arrested in early 2011, just before the sixth anniversary of widespread anti-government demonstrations that took place in April 2005. Two of these, teachers Hashem Sha’bani Amouri and Hadi Rashidi, had previously been shown on Iran’s state-controlled English-language television station, Press TV, appearing to “confess” to the allegations against them. A third man convicted, Mohammad Ali Amouri, had been sought by the authorities for organizing protests during the demonstrations in 2005.
At the end of February 2012, the Amnesty and Clemency Commission rejected the request for pardon of Abdolreza Ghanbari, a Persian literature teacher, university lecturer and former trade union activist who was arrested after anti-government demonstrations in 2009.
His death sentence imposed in 2011 relates to emails and a phone call he allegedly received from the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI). His family denies that these contacts took place. The PMOI is a banned opposition group based in Iraq which advocates the overthrow of the Iranian government, and has previously engaged in armed action against the government. Other individuals sentenced to death for “enmity against God” had family links to members of the PMOl living in a PMOI camp in Iraq and had visited relatives or friends there.
The Iranian-Canadian dual national, Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, remained at imminent risk of execution throughout the year. He was sentenced to death in 2008 for espionage and cooperation with the PMOI, on the basis that he had obtained confidential military information from his brother Alborz Ghassemi-Shall, who had previously worked as a mechanical engineer in the Iranian army.
On 17 January 2012, the Supreme Court confirmed the death sentence of Saeed Malekpour, a permanent resident of Canada and Iranian national. He is a web programmer who was sentenced to death in 2010 for “insulting and desecrating Islam” after software he had developed for uploading photos online had been used without his knowledge to post pornographic images. He was arrested in October 2008 while visiting his family in Iran. His death sentence was suspended in December, after he entered a plea in which he “repented” for his actions.
Two other individuals, blogger Vahid Asghari and website administrator Ahmad Reza Hashempour, remained on death row awaiting execution in relation to their online activities.
Christian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, sentenced to death by hanging for the uncodified crime of “apostasy from Islam” in 2011, was re-tried and finally acquitted in September 2012 after almost three years in detention. He was re-arrested – intentionally – on Christmas Day, 25 December, but again released in early 2013.
Four men were reportedly sentenced to death by hanging for “sodomy” in May. In July, unconfirmed reports suggested that the Iranian authorities no longer intended to implement the stoning sentence handed down to Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani in 2006 for “adultery while married”, and that she could be released. But her legal status was unclear, including whether any prison sentence imposed for her alleged role in the murder of her husband still remained. Her stoning sentence had previously been sent to the Office for the Implementation of Sentences, and could therefore, if still active, be carried out at any time.
In addition, her last lawyer, Javid Houtan Kiyan, who was arrested in 2010, is believed to have been sentenced to at least four years in prison for representing her and was banned from practicing law for five years.
In January, a revised Penal Code was passed by the Council of Guardians as presented by parliament, but did not enter into force during the year. Explicit references to the punishment of stoning were removed in 2012 (but re-instated in early 2013). Sexual relations outside marriage remained a crime. Under the draft Code, judges would still be able to pass stoning sentences, including under Article 167 of Iran’s Constitution, which directs judges to use Islamic law to rule on a case in the absence of codified law. The new Penal Code would also continue to allow judges to decide on the merits of a case based on their subjective “knowledge of the judge” (elm-e qazl), a key element in the conviction of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. Other proposed amendments would end the use of the death penalty
against juvenile offenders for some crimes such as drug trafficking, but not for murder.
Trial procedures in Iran are generally flawed. Many death sentences in Iran follow grossly unfair trials, in which Iranian courts frequently accept as evidence alleged “confessions” extracted through torture and other ill-treatment. Televised “confessions” have repeatedly been used by the authorities to incriminate detained individuals during their trials. Many have later retracted these “confessions”, stating that they were coerced into making them,
sometimes under torture.
On 6 August, Iranian state television channel RTVI broadcast a 39-minute documentary ca lied “Terror Club”, showing the “confessions” of Mazyar Ebrahimi, Iranian founder of a cinema and television production company based in Iraq, and 11 other men and women arrested with him for their alleged involvement in the killings of five Iranian nuclear scientists and academics. If convicted, some or all would likely face the death penalty. Majid Jamali Fashi, one of the men featured in the documentary, had already been executed on 15
May following a TV “confession” broadcast in 2011.
Under Iran’s Code of Criminal Procedures, defence lawyers are not permitted to fully represent their clients until formal charges have been made, a process which may take months. As a consequence, detainees are sometimes held for months in incommunicado detention, that is, without access to their lawyers and relatives. State-appointed lawyers are rarely able to mount an adequate defence for their clients, whose case may have been allocated only days or even hours before the initial trial.
Lawyers are not always informed in advance of their clients’ execution, despite the legal requirement of 48 hours’ notice, and families are not always given an opportunity for a final visit, or to receive the body and effects of their relative after execution. In many cases, the only sign that an execution is imminent is when death row prisoners are taken from their cells and transferred to places like Tehran’s Evin Prison (this would happen 48 hours before the scheduled execution date). The families of the convicts are often told only a day before the execution, when they are called to the prison for a final visit. Family members have often reported that death row inmates had lost weight, were in poor health, experienced depression and memory loss, and had been subjected to physical and psychological torture. Reported examples of ill-treatment include floggings, severe beatings, blindfolding, boiling water being poured over inmates, and threats of rape. In June, Iran publicly complained about executions of Iranian nationals in Saudi Arabia in violation of rules on fair trials and consular assistance, and the Iranian news agency ran the headline: “Execution of Iranian citizens in Saudi Arabia was a medieval act”.