UN human rights office urges death penalty moratorium amid spike in executions

21 February 2014 – The United Nations human rights office today urged the Iranian Government to immediately halt executions, after voicing deep concern about reports that 80, and possibly up to 95, people have been put to death in the country since the beginning of this year.

“We regret that the new Government has not changed its approach to the death penalty and continues to impose capital punishment for a wide range of offences,” Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told reporters in Geneva.

“We urge the Government to immediately halt executions and to institute a moratorium.”

The Office voiced deep concern about the reported spike in executions in Iran since the start of 2014. “In just over seven weeks, at least 80 people have been executed. Some reliable sources indicate the figure could be as high as 95,” said Ms. Shamdasani.

She said the majority of these executions were for drug-related offences, which do not meet the threshold in international law of “most serious crimes” for which the death penalty may be applied. A number of individuals were also executed in secret and at least seven people have been executed in public this year.

OHCHR is especially concerned about the reported execution in secret of Hadi Rashedi and Hashem Sha’bani Amouri, both members of the Ahwaz Arab community. Ms. Shamdasani said their executions were reportedly carried out in January following proceedings that did not meet international fair trial and due process standards.

The two men were reportedly sentenced to death on ill-defined charges of “enmity against God” (Moharebeh), corruption on earth (Mofsid fil-arz) and acts against national security.

“They were allegedly denied access to a lawyer and their families for the first nine months of their detention, and reportedly subject to torture to force confessions,” Ms. Shamdasani stated.

OHCHR added that there was a “notable” escalation in executions, including of political prisoners and individuals belonging to ethnic minority groups, in the second half of 2013.

At least 500 people are known to have been executed in 2013, including 57 in public. According to some sources, the figure may be as high as 625.

[United Nation]

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