February 15, 2007

UNPO Appeals to Halt Further Executions of Ahwazi Arab Activists

UNPO issues appeals to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and President of the UN Human Rights Council, calling for international action following latest executions of Ahwazi Arabs.

The Hague, 15 February 2007 – The UNPO remains deeply concerned about the continued persecution of the Ahwazi Arab population by Iranian authorities.

At its latest meeting of the UNPO Presidency, held at the European Parliament in Brussels from 1 to 3 February 2007, concern was raised at distressing reports of the imminent execution of representatives of the Ahwazi Arab community in Iran. The UNPO Presidency resolved to urge an end to these executions and issue a joint appeal by UNPO Members.

On 10 January 2007, independent experts appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council, Mr. Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Mr. Leandro Despouy, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, and Mr. Manfred Nowak, the Special Rapporteur on torture, issued a statement urging the Iranian Government to "stop the imminent execution of seven men belonging to the Ahwazi Arab minority and grant them a fair and public hearing".

In blatant defiance to the UN General Assembly, UN Independent Experts on Human Rights, the European Parliament, and international human rights organizations, the Iranian regime has executed a further four Ahwazi opposition activists on 24 January 2007; Mohammad Chaabpour (28), Abdolamir Farjolah Chaab (26), Alireza Asakereh (24), Khalaf Dohrab Khanafereh (Khazirawi) (34). Despite rising voices of condemnation following these events, an additional three Ahwazi activists, Ghasem Salami (Salamat) (41), Majad Albughbish (30) and Abdolreza Sanawati (Zergani) (34), were executed on 14 February 2007.

In the wake of this series of executions, UNPO is particularly alarmed at the systematic targeting of ethnic Ahwazi Arabs and the fact that the Iranian Judiciary in many of the cases conducts secret trials, effectively denying the defendants the most fundamental of legal rights.

On 19 December 2006, Malek Banitamim, Abdollah Solaimani, and Ali Matorizadeh were executed for "waging war on God" in Ahwaz City. This was done one day after the UN Security Council passed a resolution condemning Iran’s human rights violations. In March 2006, Ali Afrawi (17) and Mehdi Nawaseri (20), were publicly hanged in Ahwaz City for similar charges, after a TV broadcast of their confession, which was reportedly forced, was shown a day earlier on Khuzestan TV.

On 13 November 2006, the Iranian regime broadcasted videos of forced confessions of 11 Ahwazi Arabs on Khuzestan TV, international outrage, including a condemnation by the European Parliament in a resolution of 16 November 2006, as well as a resolution by 48 British MPs and similar actions by other national parliaments ensued and the executions of the these men were delayed.

On 9 November 2006 Iran’s Supreme Court confirmed the death sentences of at least 19 of the 35 Iranian Arabs sentenced to death following one-day trials in absence of both lawyers and witnesses. Two of these 35 men sentenced to death, Nazem Bureihi and Abdolreza Nawaseri, were already serving prison sentences for insurgency at the time of the bomb attacks for which the regime claims they were responsible. Commenting on the fact that the Iranian Judiciary accuses a person of carrying out bombings while in prison, Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch, emphasizes “the arbitrariness” of the conviction. 

Reportedly, all these men were tortured into making false confessions. Their lawyers were not allowed to see them prior to their trial, nor were they given the prosecution’s case until hours before the start of the secret trial.

UNPO remains deeply concerned by the routine arrest and execution of Iran’s dissidents and has repeatedly called for international action to address the deteriorating human rights situation faced by the Ahwazi Arab population of Iran.

UNPO has therefore appealed to Prof. Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Ms. Louise Arbour, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Mr. Luis Alfonso de Alba, President of the UN Human Rights Council, to:

Request Iranian authorities to ensure due legal process in accordance with internationally recognized standards and to cease in the use of the death penalty as a weapon of fear and oppression;

Call upon Iran to uphold its obligations with regard to civil and political rights, including the provision of equal rights to ethnic, religious and minority groups in Iran, such as the Ahwazi, Azerbaijani Turks, Baloch and Kurds; and

Consider the establishment of an investigation team, mandated by the UN Human Rights Council, to consider the series of arrests, trials, and executions, with findings reported to the UN General Assembly.

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