Plans by authorities in the Islamic Republic of Iran to execute individuals convicted of capital offences in connection with the popular uprising is clear proof of their intention to continue to use the death penalty as a tool of political repression. Their message is clear: they will use death sentences to put an end to the ongoing nationwide protests and to deter and punish dissent of any kind.
On 6 December, the Islamic Republic’s head of the judiciary, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje’i announced that ‘some’ of the death sentences handed down to ‘rioters’ convicted of ‘corruption on earth’ and ‘waging war against God’ have been upheld and ‘will be carried out soon’.
The announcement comes in the wake of a flurry of official reports since mid-November about the conviction of several individuals on capital offenses in connection with the uprising that has rocked the country since September.
‘By putting individuals on sham trials that bear no resemblance to fair proceedings and sentencing them to death, the Iranian authorities are once again showing their absolute disregard for the right to life, be it on the streets and in the context of protests or within the country’s justice system,’ said Saloua Ghazouani, ARTICLE 19’s Director for Middle East and North Africa.
‘The authorities must immediately halt any plans for carrying out executions, quash all death sentences and refrain from seeking the death penalty including in connection with protests. They must drop all charges against individuals arrested solely for peacefully participating in protests and strikes,’ Saloua Ghazouani added.
According to publicly-available information, at least 11 people have already been sentenced to death in grossly unfair trials before Revolutionary Courts. The authorities have not disclosed the identities of those they have sentenced to death, but based on publicly available information, human rights organisations believe that Sahand Nourmohammad-Zadeh, Mahan Sedarat Madani, Manouchehr Mehman Navaz, Mohammad Boroughani, and Mohammad Ghobadlou are among those who have been sentenced to death.
Another man, a medical doctor, Hamid Ghare-Hasanlou, is believed to have been among the five people who, according to the 6 December report by the judiciary’s news agency Mizan, have been sentenced to death.
The authorities have denied all individuals charged with and tried on capital offenses of their fair trial rights guaranteed under international law. Fair trial violations against these individuals have included denial of the rights to access a lawyer of their own choosing from the time of arrest and, throughout the investigation and trial proceedings, the right to a public hearing before a competent independent tribunal, the right to be presumed innocent, the right to be protected against torture and other ill-treatment, to the exclusion of evidence obtained in violation of international standards, to right to remain silent and not to be compelled to incriminate oneself or to confess guilt.
Others at serious risk
Other individuals remain at risk of receiving the death penalty in relation to the nationwide protests including two artists, Toumaj Salehi and Saman Yasin.
Dissident rapper Toumaj Salehi was arrested in October after he posted a video showing him taking part in protests. He has been charged with the capital offense of ‘corruption on earth’ as well as other charges including ‘spreading propaganda against the system’, ‘working with a hostile government’ and ‘incitement to violence’. The charges against him stem from his music and social media posts including clips he had posted of himself rapping in support of protests. Iran’s state media has broadcast footage of Salehi making a ‘confession’, thereby violating his rights to presumption of innocence, freedom from torture and other ill treatment, and making self-incriminating statements.
Another rapper, Saman Seydi (Yasin), who has been vocal in his criticism and had written messages of support for protesters on his social media channels and posted several protest songs has been charged with the capital offense of ‘waging war against God’ and is at risk of receiving the death penalty.
The authorities, in flagrant violation of international law, which absolutely prohibits the use of the death penalty against children, had also charged three children with the capital offence of ‘waging war against God’ in Karaj, Alborz province. According to a statement by the judiciary’s news agency on 6 December announcing the issuance of death sentences against five individuals; the three children appear to have been sentenced to long-term prison terms.
ARTICLE 19 fears that, in light of thousands of indictments issued against individuals in connection with the uprising, many more may be at risk of receiving the death penalty.
Since the start of the uprising in September 2022, Iran’s authorities and security forces have launched a deadly campaign of crackdown on protests. Security forces have used unlawful force, including live ammunition and metal pellets against crowds, killing hundreds of men, women and children and injuring thousands more. The oppressed Kurdish and Baluchi minorities have borne the brunt of this deadly crackdown.
The authorities have arbitrarily arrested and detained thousands of individuals, including protesters and bystanders, journalists and media workers, lawyers, human rights defenders, labour rights activists, women’s rights defenders, students, school children, families of victims, and others seeking truth and justice.
This torrent of grave human rights violations and crimes under international law has been committed alongside internet shutdowns and disruptions, which have facilitated their commission and concealment.
Despite the brutal force used against protesters across the country, the popular uprising continues, with women, men and children courageously taking to the streets to demand fundamental change.
Workers have also taken strike action, which began on 5 December and is expected to continue throughout 7 December throughout Iran
On 24 November 2022, in response to systemic and structural impunity in the country, which has emboldened the authorities to embark on successive waves of unlawful and lethal repression of protests, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a landmark resolution establishing an international independent fact-finding mission to investigate human rights violations in Iran related to the protests that began on 16 September 2022.