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Iran: Death penalty used as political tool – UN expert

NEW YORK (25 October 2021) – Calling almost all executions in Iran an arbitrary deprivation of life, a UN human rights expert today urged the country to reform its laws to end imposition of the death penalty in violation of international law.

“There are extensive, vague and arbitrary grounds in Iran for imposing the death sentence, which quickly can turn this punishment into a political tool,” Javaid Rehman, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, told the UN General Assembly in delivering his fourth annual report.

“In addition, the structural flaws of the justice system are so deep and at odds with the notion of rule of law that one can barely speak of a justice system,” he said. “The entrenched flaws in law and in the administration of the death penalty in Iran mean that most, if not all, executions are an arbitrary deprivation of life.”

The country’s Islamic Penal Code of 2013 provides for the death penalty for a wide range of offences in violation of international human rights law.

He particularly criticised three vague criminal charges that carry the death penalty and are often used against political opponents or political protesters: moharebeh (“waging war against God”), efsad-e fel-arz (“corruption on earth”)and baghy (armed rebellion”).

Rehman said he was extremely disturbed by the practice of sentencing children to death, saying Iran remains one of very few countries that continues this practice despite the absolute prohibition under international law.

“The Iranian Government has shown it can reform, which is welcome,” Rehman said. “I call on the authorities to undertake further reforms in order to end the imposition of the death penalty in violation of international law, in line with consistent recommendations made year after year to Iran by international human rights mechanisms.”

In addition to the issue of the death penalty, the report also provides an overview of some key concerns at the human rights situation, including repression of civic space, continuing discrimination against religious, ethnic and sexual minorities, the dire condition of prisons, and the impact of sanctions.

The interactive dialogue will be carried live on UN Web TV.


Javaid Rehman was appointed Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran by the UN Human Rights Council in July 2018. He is a Professor of International Human Rights Law and Muslim Constitutionalism at Brunel University, London. Mr Rehman teaches human rights law and Islamic law and continues to publish extensively in the subjects of international human rights law, Islamic law and constitutional practices of Muslim majority States.

The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page — Iran

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