Stop sentencing peaceful protesters to death, say UN experts: Iran


GENEVA (11 November 2022) — UN experts* today urged Iranian authorities to stop indicting people with charges punishable by death for participation, or alleged participation, in peaceful demonstrations.

Eight people were charged on 29 October by the Islamic Revolution Court, in Tehran province, with crimes carrying the death penalty, namely “waging war against God” or “moharebeh” and “corruption on earth”. Two days later, the Tehran prosecutor announced that some 1,000 indictments had been issued in connection with recent “riots” in Tehran province alone and that trials were scheduled in the Islamic Revolutionary Court for cases against a number of individuals. Public trials would take place “in the coming days”, the prosecutor said.

On 6 November, in blatant violation of the separation of powers, 227 members of Parliament called on the judiciary to act decisively against people arrested during the protests and to carry out punishment carrying the death penalty, experts said.

“With the continuous repression of protests, many more indictments on charges carrying the death penalty and death sentences might soon be issued, and we fear that women and girls, who have been at the forefront of protests, and especially women human rights defenders, who have been arrested and jailed for demanding the end of systemic and systematic discriminatory laws, policies and practices might be particularly targeted”, the experts said.

“We urge Iranian authorities to stop using the death penalty as a tool to squash protests and reiterate our call to immediately release all protesters who have been arbitrarily deprived of their liberty for the sole reason of exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of opinion and expression, association and peaceful assembly and for their actions to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms through peaceful means.”

Thousands of peaceful protesters have been arrested since 16 September, including many women, children and youth, lawyers, human rights defenders and activists. Among them were at least 51 journalists. Fourteen were reportedly released on bail, while 37 remain detained. Many of the arrested individuals remain in incommunicado detention.

“The crackdown on peaceful demonstrations has continued unabated, and the death toll has risen to at least 304 people killed, including 24 women and 41 children. Baluchi and Kurdish minorities have continued to be disproportionately affected by the repression” the experts said.

The Islamic Revolutionary courts, established after the 1979 revolution, have been used for years to sentence political activists, journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders through grossly unfair summary trials. The experts said the Iranian criminal justice system also relies heavily on forced confessions extracted through torture and other forms of coercion and duress to prove guilt.

Since nationwide protests in November 2019 the imposition of the death penalty has been widely used against individuals for participating in protests under unsubstantiated murder charges or vague national security charges. In 2020, at least two individuals were executed following their participation in protests.

“We reiterate our call on the Human Rights Council to urgently take the necessary actions to hold a Special Session on the situation in Iran and to establish an international investigative mechanism, to ensure accountability in Iran and to end the persistent impunity for grave human rights violations.

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