UN experts condemn recent executions, urge moratorium on death penalty: Iran


UN experts* today strongly condemned several recent executions, including Mr. Habib Chaab, a Swedish-Iranian national from the Ahwazi Arab minority, Mr. Yousef Mehrdad and Mr. Sadrollah Fazeli Zare, and warned that executions following flawed trials were tantamount to arbitrary deprivation of life under international law.

“Trials of some of these persons were marred by violations of due process guarantees in proceedings that fell short of international fair trial standards,” the experts said. “Any death sentence undertaken in contravention of a government’s international obligations is unlawful and tantamount to an arbitrary execution.”

Mr. Habib Chaab was detained since October 2020 after he was kidnapped in Turkey and transferred to the Islamic Republic of Iran, under circumstances that might amount to enforced disappearance. On Saturday 5 May 2023, he was executed after the Islamic Revolution Court in Tehran found him guilty of “corruption on earth”, a capital offence under Iran’s strict interpretation of Islamic law. In March 2023, the Supreme Court upheld his conviction and death sentence.

“It is deeply worrying that despite repeated appeals by human rights mechanisms and the international community, the Government carried out the execution of Mr. Habib Chaab,” the UN experts said.

They also raised concerns that on Monday, 8 May 2023, Mr. Yousef Mehrdad and Mr. Sadrollah Fazeli Zare were executed for crimes including blasphemy, insulting Islam and the prophet, and promoting atheism following grossly unfair trials. Mehrdad and Zare had been under arrest since May 2020.

“Expression – including criticism of religious leaders or commentary on religious doctrine and tenets of faith, that do not constitute advocacy of hatred or incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence – should never be criminalised, let alone result in state sanctioned executions,” the experts said. “Prohibitions of displays of lack of respect for a religion or other belief system, including blasphemy laws, are incompatible with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” they added.

They urged Iran to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

The UN experts recalled that under international law, the death penalty can only be imposed and enforced for offences that meet the threshold of “most serious crimes”, and following a legal process that establishes all possible safeguards to ensure a fair trial. Exercising one’s rights to freedoms of thought, expression and assembly can never be classified as such.

“In Iran, authorities use the death penalty and execution as a tool of political repression against protesters, dissidents and minorities,” the experts said. “We urge Iranian authorities to amend the Constitution and the penal code to prohibit executions and commute all death sentences,” they said.

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