ARTICLE 19 is horrified to learn that two individuals held under protest-related charges and the capital offence of ‘Moharabeh’ or ‘waging war against God’ have now been executed following sham trials. On the morning of 12 December, Majidreza Rahnvard was the second person to be arbitrarily executed. The proceedings against him did not even resemble a meaningful judicial process and were void of the most basic and fundamental due process and judicial guarantees. ARTICLE 19 warns that many more are at risk of execution following sham unfair trials.
The authorities of the Islamic Republic executed 23-year old Majidreza Rahnavard in Mashhad, Khorasan-e Razavi province, on 12 December. His ‘public’ execution, which was kept secret from his family, came less than two weeks after a Revolutionary Court convicted him, in a sole session, of ‘waging war against God’ for allegedly killing two members of Iran’s Basij paramilitary forces. Prior to his so-called trial, state media aired the forced ‘confessions’ of Majidreza Rahnavard, violating his rights to presumption of innocence and to be free from torture and other ill-treatment. In the video, he appeared blindfolded and his hand was heavily bandaged and in a cast, raising serious concerns that he had been tortured.
Families pressured to remain silent and kept uninformed
Information received by ARTICLE 19 indicates that the family of Majidreza Rahnavard was not told that he was going to be executed. Authorities went even as far as to allow his mother to visit him without the knowledge it would be the last visit. Previously, the family of Mohsen Shekari, a young man executed on 8 December following a sham unfair trial, had faced pressure not to speak publicly about his case and the plans to execute him, with authorities telling them that their silence would help stop the death sentence.
We are further disturbed by reports that families of individuals at risk of execution who are trying to report on their cases and save their loved ones from the gallows are being intimidated by the authorities in order to silence them. According to Hengaw, a rights organisation focusing on Kurdistan, Shahla Peighami, the mother of Farhad Tahazade and Farzad Tahazade, two brothers from Iran’s persecuted Kurdish minority, whom ARTICLE 19 understands have been charged with the capital offence of ‘enmity against God’, has been called in for interrogations to pressure her to stop sounding the alarm on her children’s cases. This is consistent with the authorities’ long-standing practice of intimidating, harassing and persecuting those who speak out about human rights violations, including family members of victims seeking truth and justice.
‘The horrific execution of Majidreza Rahnavard, like that of Mohsen Shekari before him, clearly illustrates that the authorities are adamant to act on their threats of swift trials and public executions in a bid to instil fear and put an end to the ongoing protests. By systemically silencing families and blocking access to information about those at risk of execution, the authorities of Islamic Republic intend to get away with gross violations of human rights and international crimes without international attention or transparent information,’ said Saloua Ghazouani, ARTICLE 19’s Director for Middle East and North Africa. ‘These state-sanctioned killings, carried out without even the slightest regard for due process guarantees, constitute an assault on the right to life.
‘With many more at risk of the death penalty, the international community must take urgent robust action to stop the authorities from carrying out more executions. UN state members must also pursue accountability, including under the principle of universal jurisdiction, for perpetrators of crimes under international law and gross violations of human rights, including the right to life and freedom from torture,’ Saloua Ghazouani continued.
Stripped of the right to a fair trial
The authorities have denied all individuals charged with and tried on capital offences of their fair trial rights guaranteed under international law. Fair trial violations against these individuals have included denial of the rights to access a lawyer of their own choosing from the time of arrest and, throughout the investigation and trial proceedings, the right to a public hearing before a competent independent tribunal, the right to be presumed innocent, the right to be protected against torture and other ill-treatment, the right for the exclusion of evidence obtained in violation of international standards, and the right to remain silent and not to be compelled to incriminate oneself or to confess guilt.
The right to a fair trial is emphasised under a number of international doctrines, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a state party. The rights include the presence of an impartial judge, interrogator, investigator, and the presence of chosen competent and independent counsel. Many experienced and independent lawyers have been arrested and are currently in prison, especially since the start of the nationwide protests in Iran in mid-September 2022. Others face threats of imprisonment and retaliation. ARTICLE 19 also fears the silencing of families is further impeding advocacy, campaigning and oversight of these trials.
The executions come after authorities repeatedly announced their plans for speedy trials for those accused of capital charges and executions, including in public, in connection with the protests. On 6 December, Iran’s judiciary announced that the death sentences against individuals found guilty of ‘corruption on earth’ and ‘waging war against God’ would be enforced imminently. They follow reports since mid-November about the conviction of several individuals on capital offences in connection with the nationwide protests that have rocked the country since September. According to information available, at least 20 people are also at risk of execution for capital offences, at least 11 of whom have already been sentenced to death. In light of thousands of arrests and indictments, ARTICLE 19 fears that many more are at risk of the death penalty.
The Islamic Republic authorities must immediately halt all plans to carry out executions and quash all death sentences. They must drop charges against people arrested for taking part in nationwide protests, and uphold people’s right to freedom of expression and to assemble in public.
ARTICLE 19 welcomes the imposition of new targeted sanctions, including by the European Union against officials of the Islamic Republic for their involvement in gross violations of human rights and crimes under Special Economic Measure, especially members of the judicial processes involved in these sham trials. We reiterate, however, that the international community must do more to pressure Iran’s authorities to halt the executions and quash all death sentences, and we join the community of human rights organisations to ask states to recall ambassadors in order to hold them to account for the recent developments.