Iran: IBAHRI condemns hanging of protestors and calls for end to unfair trials and executions

Wednesday 14 December 2022

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) condemns the use of the death penalty against Mohsen Shekari (8 December 2022) and Majidreza Rahnavard (12 December 2022) in the Islamic Republic of Iran following 'trials' that violated their due process rights. The IBAHRI condemns the use of the death penalty in all instances and calls on Iran to halt any planned executions. The IBAHRI further calls for an end to unfair trials. 

Mr Shekari and Mr Rahnavard have been executed in relation to nationwide demonstrations that began in September 2022 following the death, while in police custody, of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by Iran’s ‘morality police’ for infringing rules relating to how she wore her headscarf. At least 27 other people connected with the protests, which have grown in scope amid anger over increasing violence and discrimination against women, police brutality, deteriorating civil and political rights and economic hardships, are facing execution in Iran. Iran’s judiciary has announced that at least 10 other people have been sentenced to death on charges of ‘enmity against God’ or ‘corruption on Earth’.

IBAHRI Co-Chair Anne Ramberg Dr Jur hc commented: ‘The IBAHRI condemns outright the use of the death penalty and is outraged by the Iranian authorities’ execution of the young protestors, Mohsen Shekari and Majidreza Rahnavard. International law requires that the death penalty is used only for the most serious crimes involving intentional killing. Both Mr Shekari and Mr Rahnavard did not receive fair trials and were convicted on vague charges of “enmity against God”. It is horrifying that a state can kill dissident citizens so readily. The IBAHRI condemns these executions and commends the United Nations Human Rights Council for passing the resolution to establish an independent investigation for alleged human rights violations in Iran.’

On 20 November 2022, Iranian authorities convicted Mr Shekari of the broad and vague charge of ‘enmity against God’ (moharebeh) in relation to accusations of ‘blocking a street in Tehran, creating fear and depriving people of freedom and security, and intentionally wounding a security agent’. An appeal from Mr Shekari’s lawyer failed and the death sentence ruling against him was upheld by Iran’s Supreme Court. Prior to his death, Mr Shekari’s right to a fair trial was severely violated, with reports stating that he was tortured into a forced confession and denied access to his lawyer throughout proceedings.

Mr Rahnavard’s conviction followed a similar pattern to Mr Shekari’s, with a charge of ‘enmity against God’ following accusations that he had fatally stabbed two members of Iran’s paramilitary Basij Resistance Force. His public hanging from a construction crane was carried out just 23 days after his arrest.

Both men were 23 years of age. 

IBAHRI Co-Chair Mark Stephens CBE commented: ‘The death penalty has long been used as a tool of political suppression during demonstrations against Iran’s regime, from the 1988 mass executions to the 2019 anti-government protests. The lack of separation of powers and judicial independence has sustained the vicious cycle of politicised executions against perceived enemies of the state with impunity. The imposition of the death penalty seeks not only to silence those with dissenting voices, but to deny their existence entirely. The rushed nature of Mr Shekari's and Mr Rahnavard's trials and lack of due process is intended to instil fear in other young protestors and prevent them from taking to the streets and demanding their rights. The international community must do all that it can to put an end to any further executions in Iran.’

At the time of writing, reports indicate that more than 430 human rights defenders, including at least 22 lawyers, have been arrested in Iran. Lawyers who undertake cases involving human rights defenders are often threatened and eventually imprisoned for carrying out their professional duties. In addition, judges in Iran are regarded as routinely abusing their legal powers in ‘security-related’ trials such as those involving human rights, political or civil activists. 

In a joint statement issued on 1 December, the IBAHRI and several other bar associations and lawyers’ organisations called on Iranian authorities to immediately release all lawyers arrested for any action taken in accordance with their professional duties, preserve the independence of the legal profession, accord those accused with the right to a fair trial and uphold the rule of law in the country.


For further information/interview requests, please send an email to: IBAHRI@int-bar.org

Notes to the Editor

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