The Iranian authorities must halt all executions scheduled in the coming days, Amnesty International said, amid reports that up to 23 individuals may be at imminent risk in what the organization fears may herald a rise in executions in the country.
Twenty-two death row prisoners, among them at least five Afghan nationals, have been removed from their prison cells in recent days and are due to be executed on 8 September.
Most or all are believed to have been convicted of drugs offences.
Another prisoner, Gholamreza Khosravi Savajani, 50, who was sentenced to death in 2010 for “enmity against God” (moharebeh) in connection to claims he supports the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) – a sentence which was later confirmed by the Supreme Court on 21 April 2012 - is believed to be scheduled for execution on 10 September.
“We are calling on Iran to commute the death penalty of all prisoners on death row, as we consider this most final of penalties to constitute a violation of the right to life,” said Anne Harrison, Amnesty International’s Deputy Programme Director for the Middle East and North Africa Programme.
“Additionally, under international law, the death penalty can only be carried out for ‘the most serious consequences’ which must be ‘intentional crimes with lethal or other extremely grave consequences’. Neither support for a political group nor drugs offences meet this criterion.”
Twenty-two individuals on death row have been taken to Evin Prison for execution – 17 from Section 2 of Ghezel Hezar Prison – since 6 September 2012, according to information received by Amnesty International.
Their families have been told to visit them for the last time today.
Another five prisoners, all Afghan nationals, were also taken from Ghezel Hezar Prison at the same time to an unknown location – possibly Raja’i Shahr Prison – for execution.
The executions are likely to take place on 8 September 2012, as death row prisoners are frequently taken away 48 hours before execution, according to sources.
Amnesty International is also concerned that Gholamreza Khosravi Savajani – who was reportedly tortured or otherwise ill-treated, apparently after refusing to make a “confession” while being held in a Ministry of Intelligence detention facility in Kerman, southern Iran - did not receive a fair trial. and urges the Iranian authorities to retry him.
“These allegations of torture or other ill-treatment must be investigated immediately and impartially and anyone found responsible for abuses brought to justice. He should also be retried in proceedings which meet international standards for fair trial, without recourse to the death penalty”.
Gholamreza Khosravi Savajani was arrested in 2008 in Rafsanjan, Kerman Province, in connection with his alleged support of the pro-PMOI TV station Sima-ye Azadi (Voice of Freedom).
He was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment, three years of which were suspended.
The three-year suspended sentence was later implemented following an appeal by the Ministry of Intelligence, bringing his total sentence to 6 years actual imprisonment.
He was then sentenced to death following further legal proceedings, including two retrials, after being convicted of a fresh charge of “enmity against God” (moharebeh) for his alleged ties to the PMOI.
Savajani has been held in Tehran’s Evin Prison since July 2011 and it has been reported that his death sentence will be implemented on 10 September 2012, although he has received no official notification of this.
He is believed to have spent over 40 months in solitary confinement in various detention centres since his arrest in 2008.
New wave of executions in Iran
These worrying reports indicate that a new wave of executions may be underway in Iran now that the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the recent Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit held in Tehran are both over. There was a lull in executions during this time.
Three men, including two brothers, are reported to have been hanged on 3 September 2012. They had been transferred from Ghezel Hezar prison, where there are no execution facilities, to Gohar Dasht Prison in Karaj, near Tehran.
Three other men are also reported to have been executed on 5 September 2012 in Evin Prison.
So far this year, the Iranian authorities have acknowledged the execution of at least 182 individuals, 35 of them put to death in public. Amnesty International has received credible reports of 100 other executions which were not officially acknowledged, mostly of convicted drugs offenders.
The Iranian authorities resort extensively to the imposition of the death penalty, with over 600 executions reported in the country from official and unofficial sources in 2011.
In the recent NAM summit held in Tehran, UN Secretary General, Ban-Ki Moon, urged world leaders to promote and protect the values embedded in the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 3 of which states that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
In November 2011, the UN Human Rights Committee, which oversees implementation of the ICCPR, expressed concern about the number of death sentences imposed and carried out in Iran in its Concluding Observations. The Committee stated that the Iranian authorities “should consider abolishing the death penalty or at least revise the Penal Code to restrict the imposition of the death penalty to only the ‘most serious crimes’”.