28 January 2013 – A group of United Nations independent experts urged Iran to halt the execution of five activists belonging to the Ahwazi Arab minority, who were sentenced to death on charges of corruption, propaganda and “enmity against God.”
Mohammad Ali Amouri, Sayed Jaber Alboshoka, Sayed Mokhtar Alboshoka, Hashem Shabain Amouri and Hadi Rashidi, all founding members of Al-Hiwar, a scientific and cultural institute, were arrested in their homes in Ahwaz in 2011, ahead of the sixth anniversary of widespread protests by the Ahwazi community. Their sentences were recently upheld by the Supreme Court.
“It is absolutely unacceptable for individuals to be imprisoned and condemned to death for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association, opinion and expression, and affiliation to minority groups and to cultural institutions,” said the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed.
“Under international law, the death penalty can only be employed when very strict conditions are met, for example only in respect of the most serious crimes and only after a trial and appeal proceedings that scrupulously respect all the principles of due process,” noted the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, expressing serious concerns about the way these trials were conducted.
The Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez, expressed grave concern about the allegations that the activists were subjected to torture and other ill-treatment in detention as well as having been forced to sign confessions.
“This is not only in breach of Iran’s international obligations under the international covenant, which imposes an outright prohibition on torture, it is also in breach of Iran’s Constitution that explicitly forbids the use of all forms of torture for the purpose of extracting confessions or acquiring information,” Mr. Méndez said.
For his part, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association,Maina Kiai, reminded the Iranian authorities of their international obligations, recalling that “Iran is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the rights to free expression, free association and peaceful assembly.”
The UN independent expert on minority issues, Rita Izsák, said she was concerned by the number of cases of individuals belonging to minorities being sentenced for their activities related to their rights.
“I urge the Government of Iran to halt these executions and to review the decisions of the courts to ensure that all human rights, including minority rights, are fully upheld and respected in practice,” she added.
Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.