Iran: Oppression, unfair trials and executions in Kurdish and Baluch areas

“The authorities have arrested women’s rights activists and sentenced them to prison terms. They have also arrested members of Iran’s ethnic minorities who have advocated for greater respect of their rights, against a backdrop of violent attacks mainly in predominantly Baluch and Kurdish areas…”

The mass human rights violations that unfolded in Iran after the disputed presidential election of 2009 were a reminder of the precarious nature of fundamental freedoms in the country. The authorities imposed severe additional restrictions on freedom of expression, association, and assembly. Peaceful demonstrations were banned and protestors beaten, arbitrarily arrested, and in some cases shot. Scores were killed, both in the streets and in custody.

The Iranian authorities subsequently tried hundreds unfairly, including in mass “show trials”, the main aim of which appeared to be to validate their version of events and identify scapegoats. In January 2010, two men convicted after “show trials” were executed for their involvement in demonstrations, despite their having been in custody since before the election. At least seven men and one woman remain on death row for alleged offences related to the election and its aftermath, while others have been sentenced to prison terms of up to 15 years after conviction of vaguely worded “offences” relating to “national security. ” Their trials make a mockery of justice.

The trials typically take place after defendants have been held for long periods of detention – often in solitary confinement or incommunicado detention – in centers where torture and other ill-treatment are common. Poor prison conditions, including denial of adequate medical care, have also been used to bring further pressure to bear on those held and their families.

Since the adoption of the last resolution on the human rights situation in Iran, the authorities have banned some political parties; closed down newspapers; targeted human rights organizations; arrested journalists, trade unionists and human rights activists; and left detainees without adequate representation as lawyers themselves had their own rights violated through arrest or harassment in an apparently deliberate attempt to undermine the role of defense counsel.

The authorities succeeded in quashing demonstrations by the end of 2009, but they continue to harass or arrest critics of the government’s human rights record and others who have expressed dissenting views, many of whom have been arbitrarily detained. The authorities have arrested women’s rights activists and sentenced them to prison terms. They have also arrested members of Iran’s ethnic minorities who have advocated for greater respect of their rights, against a backdrop of violent attacks mainly in predominantly Baluch and Kurdish areas. Members of religious minorities, particularly from the unrecognized Baha’i community, Christian converts from Islam, and Sufis have been arrested and sometimes sentenced to long prison terms.

The Iranian authorities have continued to execute more prisoners – mostly by hanging – than any country other than China. Persons belonging to minorities, including foreign nationals – particularly Afghans – figure heavily among those on death row. Many of those executed have been convicted of murder or drug smuggling after deeply flawed trials. The death penalty may also be imposed for “offences” that have no inherent lethal intent – such as “adultery while married,” “sodomy,” “insulting the holy sanctities,” and “establishing or membership of a group which aims to harm national security” – in violation of international human rights law.

 

Human Rights Watch

October 28, 2010

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