Feb 14, 2007

Ahwazi: Executions Persist Despite Condemnation

Notwithstanding condemnation from the international community, Iranian authorities executed a further three Ahwazi Arab activists, in what continues as a long and brutal campaign against the Ahwazi community.

Below is an article published by British Ahwazi Friendship Society:

The Iranian regime executed three Ahwazi Arabs this morning at a prison in Ahwaz.

The killing of Ghasem Salami (Salamat), 41 years old from Ahwaz City and married with 6 children, Majad Albughbish, 30 years old from Maashur (Mahshahr) and Abdolreza Sanawati (Zergani), 34 years old and married from Ahwaz City, will bring the number of executions of Ahwazi Arabs in the past two months to 10.

The Iranian regime has ignored international outcry over the executions. According to Iranian and international human rights activists, all 10 men were tried in secret courts with no access to lawyers on dubious charges and little evidence. This has prompted governments and politicians in Europe and UN officials to condemn the trials and executions.

Two weeks ago, the Presidency of the European Council - currently held by the German government - called on the Iranian regime to halt the executions of the three men to allow them a fair trial. It also condemned the execution of four Ahwazi men on 24 January. The statement was backed by all the governments of the European Union as well as Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Ukraine and Moldova.

In the UK, 49 Members of Parliament signed an Early Day Motion condemning the execution of 10 men. The EDM - backed by a broad spectrum of MPs - noted the persecution of Ahwazi Arabs and backed complaints by human rights organisations over the nature of the trials and the use of torture to extract false confessions.

UN condemnation

European condemnation of the Iranian regime follows serious allegations by three UN independent human rights experts that the trials of 10 Ahwazi men - including seven who have been executed since early December - were seriously flawed. Philip Alston (Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions), Leandro Despouy (Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers) and Manfred Nowak (Special Rapporteur on torture) urged 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".

The experts state that the 10 men were not allowed to see the defendants prior to their trial, and were given access to the prosecution case only hours before the start of the trial. The lawyers were also intimidated by charges of "threatening national security" being brought against them. The convictions were reportedly based on confessions extorted under torture. "The only element of the cases of these men not shrouded in secrecy was the broadcast on public television of their so-called confessions", Mr. Nowak said.

The Iranian regime has ignored letters sent by the three special rapporteurs. The executions of three of the men were staged in December, with no regard for the strong concerns expressed on behalf of the UN Human Rights Council.

Iran is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and has a legal obligation to respect its provisions, which include the right to a fair and public hearing, the right not to be compelled to confess guilt, and the right to "adequate time and facilities for the preparation of ones defence" [defense] with the assistance of a lawyer of ones own choosing.

Condemnation inside Iran

Ahwazi Arab activists point out that the executions broke Islamic laws which forbid killing during the month of Moharam.

Iranian human rights activists, led by prisoners rights activist Emad Baghi, have also voiced their criticism of the conduct of the trials and the executions. In an interview this week with the Netherlands-based Radio Zamaneh, Baghi said the Iranian regime should admit that the executions were a mistake. He claimed the men "did nothing and did not take part in any explosion" and therefore the executions were against the law.

"They did not have access to lawyer," Baghi added. "They were kept in solitary confinement for months. They did not receive a fair trial. Only four [out of 40 alleged terrorists] were connected directly to the bombings and the rest are not connected."

Baghi said the root causes of unrest among Ahwazi Arabs are poverty and unequal distribution of wealth. He told Radio Zamaneh: "Government policies are wrong. The Arabs do not have good housing, healthy drinking water, electricity and live in poverty, although they live on top of oil reserves. They are also barred from working for the government."