Mar 16, 2007

Ahwazi: Death Prompts UN Appeal

An appeal has been issued to Prof. Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, following the death of Ahwazi-Arab school teacher Mr. Reisan Sawari.

Below is an appeal issued by the Ahwaz Human Rights Organization to Prof. Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, on 12 March 2007:

“Dear Prof. Alston,

On behalf of the Ahwaz Human Rights Organization (AHRO) and with reference to previous appeals addressed to you by the undersigned and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) I would hereby like to bring to your attention the following matter regarding the recent death of a representative of the Arab Ahwazi community in Iran.

We believe that the Iranian regime is trying to cover-up the death of an Ahwazi-Arab school teacher, Mr. Reisan Sawari, who died under torture on Tuesday 13 February 2007 while in his twentieth day of hunger strike. The Iranian regime has refused to hand over his body to his families.

Mr. Sawari began his huger strike on 25 January 2007 to protest his 15-month solitary confinement while shackled and blindfolded, and without visitation by lawyers nor his family members.

In June 2006, the Iranian labor news agency announced that 36 Ahwazi-Arab political activists had been sentenced to death. The death sentence of the following 10 men were upheld and approved by the higher court (Diwanaly Keshvar); Ghasem  Slamat,  Majed Albu Ghubish, Abdul Reza Sanawati, Mohammad Chaab pour, Abdul Amir Faraj Allah Chaab, Alireza Asakereh, Khalaf- Khanafereh Khozirawi, Malek Bani Tamim, Abdulah Solimani and Ali Matori Zadeh. The name of Reisan Sawari is absent from the list as his case is still under review by the high court.

On 19 December 2006 and on 24 January 2007 three and four, respectively, of the above were executed, with the remaining three suffering the same fate on 14 February 2007.

On 13 February, the AHRO received reports that Ahwazi teacher Reisan Sawari died from torture wounds during a hunger strike. The following day Iranian Pars New Agency reported, as stated above, that it had executed three remaining men who were the final three of the group of 10 Ahwazi men following convictions for “waging war on God”. Their names were Ghasem Salamat, Alireza Sanawai and Majad Alboghbish. Reisan Sawari was not mentioned.

In an extraordinary development, it appears that the regime had made an eleventh hour decision to grant a prisoner reprieve from execution in a bizarre twist to its campaign of violent oppression of Ahwazi Arabs. The next day on 15 February 2007 the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) reported that the case of one of the three (Mr. Ghasem Salamat) was referred to the country's Amnesty Commission and the execution had been postponed at the last moment. A reprieve from execution of Ahwazi political prisoners is unprecedented in Iran. Despite the efforts of Mr. Emad Al Din Baghi, head of Iranian defenders of prisoners’ rights, the Iranian government has not previously conceded amnesty even to Ahwazis with no or limited activist involvement.

The regime appears to be suggesting that Reisan Sawari was one of those executed on Wednesday, even though his execution had not been scheduled and his case along with others was still under review by the Supreme Court. According to the family members and relatives, however, Mr. Sawari died under torture on Tuesday 13 February 2007 in Meliraha Prison in Ahwaz, which is under the control on the Ministry of Intelligence.

AHRO would like to draw international attention to the fact that the Iranian regime is attempting to pass off the illegal killing of Reisan Sawari as a formal execution. It is our belief that consequently, one of the three scheduled to be executed was granted a last-minute reprieve to avoid international censure over illegal killings. In doing so, the regime has revealed the arbitrary nature of Iranian justice; Reisan Sawari was summarily killed and an Ahwazi who was due to be executed was given a summary reprieve.

Summary justice is being dispensed from the highest echelons of the Islamic theocracy, not by criminal courts. Only the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has the power to overturn Supreme Court approval of a death sentence just hours before the execution. This is a strong indication that the Ayatollah is directing the justice system for his own political purposes.

Whereas the Islamic Republic most probably did not anticipate that its execution campaign against Ahwazi Arabs would attract such a high level of international criticism, with the European Union and the UN officials, as well as numerous NGOs globally including Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and UNPO, denouncing the executions of Ahwazis, AHRO is convinced that had it not been for the international solidarity campaign, the regime would not have felt compelled to cover up the reasons for Reisan Sawari's death.

We would hereby like to request an investigation by you in your capacity as UN Special Rapporteur, on the issue of the use of execution as a tool of repression of the Ahwazi Arabs in Iran, with particular respect to the arbitrary manner in which ‘justice’ is distributed in cases such as that of Mr. Sawari.

We also urge that the case of human rights violations, including the issue of extrajudicial, arbitrary or summary executions, in Iran is given due consideration and attention at the upcoming Fourth Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva over the coming weeks.

Thank you for your attention and consideration of this matter.

Yours respectfully,

Ahwaz Human Rights Organization”