Monday, 29 July 2013

Iran's Deadly Summer: 97 executions so far

Courtesy of ABF

This is disturbing (but not surprising) news I received from The Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation (ABF), a non-governmental independent organisation dedicated to the promotion of human rights and democracy in Iran.
Executioners rarely rest in the Islamic Republic of Iran, even during the hot summer months. July has been particularly deadly this year. At least 97 executions have been reported between June 20 and July 20, 2013. The majority of these executions have been announced by the authorities themselves or reported by the semi-official media inside Iran.  Surprisingly, the high number of executions has not triggered particular reaction outside of Iran. Nor has it affected the cautious optimism prevalent since the June 15 election, won by Mr. Hassan Rouhani, a member of the Iranian ruling elite and former nuclear negotiator. 
The spike in executions, following the election of a president whose campaign theme was moderation, could be a test, and the absence of reaction could be fatal for hundreds of prisoners on death row. It is in this context that the mothers of four Arab Iranian cultural activists, recently sentenced to death for "Enmity against God” and “Spreading corruption on earth", are desperately calling on the international community to speak up on behalf of their threatened children.

Human rights groups can document cases and echo the voices of victims, as they haverecently for these four young men But they are not invited to any negotiations with Iran, whose authorities rarely engage directly with them. So far, Iran-related discussions are focused on the impact of the 2013 presidential election on nuclear matters; how to engage with the new president; and whether or not to ease economic sanctions. The current human rights crisis, including scores of executions carried out in less than a month and, importantly, the President-elect’s views about it, do not seem to be on the agenda for international stakeholders.
Who are the 20 individuals who were hanged in Karaj’s Qezelhesar Prison, for example, or the 5 women and 2 men hanged in Zahedan’s Central Prison on July 6, and what were they charged with? Were they provided the means to defend themselves or, like the four young Arab activists, were they kept incommunicado, beaten, and coerced into false confessions that were then used against them in court, in violation of the most basic human rights standards? These are life-saving questions that should be part of any dialogue with the Islamic Republic’s leaders regarding its international obligations.
The arrival in August of a new Iranian presidential team provides an opportunity to bring up the issue of the arbitrary and repeated use of capital punishment in Iran and the systematic violation of due process of law and Iran’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. No doubt, there are many important and urgent topics on the agenda of talks with the Islamic Republic, but leaving the crucial topic of human rights practices to the side sends a reassuring message to the Iranian leadership, which uses the threat of its tireless killing machine to spread fear and eliminate dissent.

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