UNPO calls on EU to listen to voices of Iranian citizens on death penalty
In advance of a debate at the European Parliament on the death penalty in Iran, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), has highlighted the importance of international policymaking on Iran being guided by the voices of Iranian citizens as expressed through citizens initiatives such as the Daadkhast petitioning platform. The UNPO's submission to the European Parliament identifies nine petitions on the death penalty in Iran and examines how they can be used to guide EU policymaking on Iran. These petitions show that the European Union can do more than merely condemn the use of the death penalty in Iran, including its use as a political weapon and its disproportionate use against minorities. They help highlight legal reforms that the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran could undertake, as well as action needed by the European Commission and EU Member States within their own borders.
The UNPO's submission can be read in full below or downloaded here.
Recognize the demand of ordinary citizens in Iran for the abolition of the death penalty and its disproportionate use against minorities and political opponents
11 February 2022
The death penalty in Iran is used as a political weapon and disproportionately against minorities, in particular the Kurdish, Baluchi and Ahwazi Arab minorities. Ordinary citizens of Iran are pressing for a change. The UNPO calls on the European Parliament to recognize their voices in its upcoming debate on the death penalty in Iran.
Numerous reports highlight the use of the death penalty as a tool of oppression and its disproportionate use against minorities.1 Iran Human Rights, an human rights NGO, reported that “[i]n January alone, at least 46 people, including 17 prisoners on ‘drug-related’ charges, were executed in Iranian prisons. Fifteen of those executed were Baluchis.”2. According to a recent Amnesty International report "[t]he authorities continued the pattern of executing members of ethnic minorities on death row in secret and concealing the whereabouts of their bodies, thereby subjecting their families to the ongoing crime of enforced disappearance."3 Another report, specifically focusing on the execution of two Baluchi prisoners states that “[t]he disproportionate use of the death penalty against Iran’s ethnic minorities epitomizes the entrenched discrimination and repression they have faced for decades.”4
Iranian citizens have exhibited a strong desire for the eradication of the death penalty. This has been exhibited by citizen-led initiatives, such as the Daadkhast platform (https://www.daadkhast.org/), that help the people of Iran be heard in spite of the repressive measures used to silence dissent and limit democratic participation.
Daadkhast is Iran's first, secure online petitioning platform. It allows Iranian citizens to propose and sign onto petitions in an environment when doing so raises significant concerns for their safety. Since its first petition in August 2019, the Daadkhast platform has been steadily growing, collecting significant grassroots support from communities in Iran. To-date approximately 400 petitions have attracted collectively close to 220,000 signatures, representing a growing cross-section of the communities in Iran.
The UNPO would like to encourage the European Parliament to pay greater attention to platforms, such as the Daadkhast platform, that show the demand for reforms coming from citizens in Iran. Doing so will provide policymakers with a better understanding of what people in Iran are concerned about today. In addition, by showing the brave participants in these initiatives that someone is listening, the European Parliament will also encourage an ever greater number of people in Iran to use petitions and other citizen-led initiatives in their dialogue with the Iranian regime. This will help promote democracy and accountability in Iran and will contribute meaningfully to efforts to address systemic problems in Iran, including the death penalty.
The upcoming European Parliament debate on the death penalty in Iran provides a perfect opportunity to provide this recognition. Abolition of the death penalty has been consistently raised through the Daadkhast platform. Indeed, the death penalty is the most frequent topic for Daadkhast petitions. For instance, the UNPO would like to draw the European Parliament’s attention to the following petitions on the Daadkhast platform related to the death penalty in Iran. These petitions highlight the brutality of the use of the death penalty in Iran, its use against marginalized communities, including minorities, and human rights defenders, as well as a possible nexus of European action.
A. Petitions related to persons currently facing the death penalty
- Overturn the death sentences of Amir Hossein Moradi, Saeed Tamjidi and Mohammad Rajabi (https://www.daadkhast.org/petition/41632) (current signatures: 33,849). This petition calls for the annulment of the unjust death sentences imposed on Amir Hossein Moradi, Saeed Tamjidi and Mohammad Rajabi, three protesters against the high price of fuel during the November 2019 fuel protests. An online campaign temporarily halted their death sentences5 and their case is currently on appeal. Mr. Moradi has been released temporarily to undergo medical treatment, while Mr. Tamjidi and Mr. Rajabi remain in detention.
- Halt the execution of Abbas Derris (https://www.daadkhast.org/petition/222189) (current signatures: 665). This petition highlights the case of Abbas Derris, a human rights defender campaigning for the rights of the Ahwazi Arab community in Khuzestan province (known to the Ahwazi Arab community as "Al-Ahwaz). According to reports from human rights activists in Iran, Abbas Derris, an Arab political prisoner in Khuzestan province and the Al-Ahwaz region, is at risk of being executed. Authorities in Mahshahr (Ma’ashur) Prison have verbally informed his family of the death sentence and its implementation date. The judicial authorities have not officially communicated to his lawyer and family in writing.
- Danger of execution of Ahmad Reza Jalali (https://www.daadkhast.org/petition/168485) (current signatures: 657). This petition highlights the case of Ahmad Reza Jalali, a Swedish-Iranian professor currently potentially facing the death penalty. Dr. Jalali was invited by Tehran University for a conference and was later arrested and sentenced to death under spurious charges of espionage and treason.
B. Petitions related to persons who have been executed
- We call for the abolition of the death penalty law (https://www.daadkhast.org/petition/187305) (current signatures 365). This petition highlights the case of Zahra Esmaili, a woman accused of murder, who died in February 2021. Ms. Esmaili was convicted of killing her abusive husband. While waiting to be executed, Ms. Esmaili had a heart attack and died after seeing 16 people executed before her. Despite the fact that she was already dead, the Iranian authorities still carried out the hanging on her corpse.
- We demand the abolition of the death penalty (https://www.daadkhast.org/petition/146090) (current signatures: 433). This petition highlights the case of Haidar Ghorbani, a Kurdish political prisoner. He was accused of collaborating with three other people to kill three members of the Revolutionary Guards. During interrogation, intelligence agents hung him from the floor to the ceiling of the room and at the same time, placed a plastic bag on his head to make it difficult for him to breathe, leading to a forced confession. Mr. Ghorbani was executed in secretly in Sanandaj Prison in December 19th 2021 without being granted even a visit from his family prior to execution.
- Stop executing Baluch prisoners (https://www.daadkhast.org/petition/183184) (current signatures: 335). After 16 Baluch prisoners were executed in one month in January 2021, ranging from a 21-year-old to the 60-year-old, this petition highlights the disproportionate use of the death penalty against minorities in Iran. Those executed in many cases did not have access to a lawyer or other aspects of the right to a fair trial. They were all poor and mostly belonged to the Sunni sect of Islam.
- Overturn the death sentence of Ruhollah Zam (https://www.daadkhast.org/petition/98876) (current signatures:628); Execution is Enough! (https://www.daadkhast.org/petition/150351) (current signatures: 1001). These petitions highlight the case of Rohollah Zam, a human rights defender and independent journalist, who was executed on 12 December 2020. Mr. Zam was heavily involved in the 2017-2018 protests in Iran, devoting significant coverage to them through the "Adamdnews" Telegram channel which he operated. Having fled from Iran to France, Mr. Zam was lured back to Iran through Iran's espionage network. He was convicted in June 2020 for the crime of mofsed-e-filarz, a captial crime in Iran that translates as "spreading corruption on Earth" and which is used as a catchall crime for political dissent.
- Form a fact-finding committee to investigate the trial and execution process (https://www.daadkhast.org/petition/144073) (current signatures: 359). This petition is one of six petitions that followed the egregious case of the execution of Navid Afkari, the Iranian wrestler who was executed in September 2020 following the 2018 Iranian protests. The petition calls on the parliament in Iran to form a fact-finding committee to investigate the process that led to his execution, which was widely understood to have violated basic standards of justice.
C. Petitions related to perpetrators
- Hassan Tardast: Judge Death and Execution (https://www.daadkhast.org/petition/175611) (Current signatures: 423). This petition highlights Hassan Tardast, known as the “executing judge,” who was formerly head of the Criminal Court of Tehran. In his time as a judge he has been alleged to be responsible for death sentences for hundreds of people, including political prisoners and minorities. The petition highlights that Mr. Tardast, and others like him, regularly travel or transfer money into Europe and asks for proceedings to be brought against him, and others like him, to hold them to account for their alleged crimes.
These petitions represent a fraction of the petitions on the Daadkhast platform. Each highlights the brutality of the death penalty regime in Iran and its use as a tool of repression. And each points to action that the European Union can take in response. In this regard, the UNPO calls on the European Parliament in its debate on the death penalty in Iran, and in any subsequent resolution to:
- Highlight that citizens of Iran, through citizen-led initiatives such as the Daadkhast petiitons platform (https://www.daadkhast.org) are consistently calling for the abolition of the death penalty and an end to its use against human rights defenders and its disproportionate use against minorities.
- Condemn the use of the death penalty as a political weapon and disproportionately against minorities and other marginalized communities as exemplified by the executions of Haidar Ghorbani, Navid Afkari Sangari, Rohollah Zam, Zahra Esmaili and the death sentences imposed upon Abbas Derris, Ahmad Reza Jalali, Amir Hossein Moradi, Mohammad Rajabi, and Saeed Tamjidi.
- Call on the Government to Iran to repeal of laws that criminalize political speech, such as the crime of mofsed-e-filarz ("spreading corruption on Earth"), enact measures to protect victims of domestic violence, including an end to the systemic prosecution of women acting in self-defense against abusive husbands, ensure the overturning of the death sentences imposed on human rights defenders in Iran, including Amir Hossein Moradi, Saeed Tamjidi and Mohammad Rajabi, Abbas Derris and Ahmad Reza Jalali, and to investigate the fairness of proceedings brought against Haidar Ghorbani, Navid Afkari Sangari, Rohollah Zam, Zahra Esmaili.
- Call on the European Commission and EU Member States to study the activities of the government of Iran inside the European Union and against EU citizens and residents, including (a) the extent to which EU legislation on criminal law, victims rights and police and judicial cooperation are being adequtely used to protect targets of the Iranian regime residing in Europe, (b) any gaps that could be filled by additional EU legislation or action, and (c) any measures in terms of sanctions, asset seizures or prosecutions that could be brought against alleged perpetrators residing in or transferring assets to the European Union.
1See Impact Iran, Death Penalty in Iran (March 2019) available at https://impactiran.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Death-Penalty-UPR-submission-2.pdf.
3Amnesty International, Iran 2020, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/location/middle-east-and-north-africa/iran/report-iran/
4Amnesty USA, Urgent Action: Two Baluchi Prisoners at Risk of Execution (18 February 2021) available at https://www.amnestyusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/uaa02221.pdf.
5See BBC, Iran halts execution of three protesters after online campaign (19 July 2020) available at https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-53463685.
Photo: Abbas Deris, HRANA News Agency