By Shahriar Kia, The Hill
Thursday, 11 August, 2016
Following Iran’s nuclear agreement, the thinking was the country would begin to wind down its human rights violations, especially the use of executions. However, recent reports indicate 33 people were sent to the gallows on Aug. 2.
Congress should dismiss any call for appeasement in relation to Iran, and continue pursuing and holding firm its sanctions against those in leadership who are behind the atrocious human rights violations.
Iranian opposition leader Maryam RajavicondemnedTehran’s mass execution of Sunni prisoners as “an appalling crime against humanity."
“The mullahs’ anti-human regime carried out the mass execution of our Sunni brothers on the anniversary of the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in Iran. They are trying in vain to contain the volatile social atmosphere and popular protests by terrorizing the public,” she said.
This is while the Iranian Diaspora communities across the globe are marking the 28th anniversary of the extensive 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners in Iran in the course of a few months, pledging to have their voices heard and raise awareness on Iran’s horrendous human rights record.
This marks one of Iran’s most atrocious mass executions in recent times. Iranian judiciary officials claim 20 of the victims were Sunni Kurds, executed in Gohardasht (Rajaie Shahr) Prison in Karaj, west of the capital, Tehran. The victims had denied all charges raised against them, and in video clips and text posted on the Internet revealed they had spent time in “solitary confinement” and placed “under torture.”
Iran is known for its skyrocketing number of executions and obtaining coerced confessions through torture and other banned methods. The mullahs have also proved their “sickening enthusiasm” of sending juveniles to the gallows, all in violation of international laws and respecting no bounds in this regard, according to Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Program Director of Amnesty International. International law, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Iran is a state party, absolutely prohibits the use of death penalty for crimes committed when the defendant was below 18 years of age. Yet apparently this is a pretext Iran refuses to respect.
Shahram Ahmadi, amongst those recently executed, had spent 33 months in solitary confinement and sentenced to death after a “five-minute” trial. He never enjoyed access to a lawyer.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein issued a statement condemning this mass execution of Sunni Kurds in Iran as a “grave injustice.” The High Commissioner expressed his doubts over the fact that these individuals ever received a fair trial. Al-Hussein also referred to Ahmadi’s case, adding he was forced under pressure to sign an interrogation paper including false allegations raised against him.
This horrific act of carnage by Iran has sparked a series of global condemnations from a large number of international organizations, accusing the regime in Tehran of launching these executions with sectarian objectives, and demanding a halt to human rights violations. The International Federation of Human Rights Societies and Center of Human Rights Advocate also issued separate statements condemning the execution of Sunni prisoners in Iran.
Iran was one of the world’s top executioners in 2015 after putting 977 people to death, according to Amnesty International. Iran hanged 44 convicted drug traffickers in the span of just two days in 2009. This spelled one of the country's biggest mass executions to that. While international law absolutely limits the application of the death penalty to the “most serious crimes”, which refers to intentional killing, the mullahs’ so-called laws and constitution criminalize various measures and sentence people to death under such terms, not seen anywhere else. Even human rights advocates, including the highly praised Narges Mohammadi, are thrown behind bars for publicly advocating anti-death penalty campaigns. This mother of twins has been deprived by Iranian officials and authorities of seeing her own children, and only permitted one phone call in over a year.
The recent execution of nearly three dozen Sunni Kurds in one day adds to Iran’s already dismal human rights history, especially in the past three years after the “moderate” Hassan Rouhani came to power.
In his statement to the UN Human Rights Council - Session 31- on March 14, 2016, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, said: “At least 966 persons — the highest rate in over two decades — were executed in 2015. At least 73 juvenile offenders were reportedly executed between 2005 and 2015. In the past two years alone, 16 juvenile offenders were executed.”
In their practice of executing juveniles the mullahs have illustrated yet again their callous disregard for human rights. 160 individuals remain in torment on death row in prisons spanning across Iran for crimes allegedly committed during their juvenile years.
The shocking stroke of irony in the recent executions lies in the fact that this incident comes as the European Union is reportedly suggesting to launch human rights negotiations with Iran. Any reasonable party figures Iran would at least consider halting executions prior to such talks. However, this proves once again that Iran takes serious only a brazen and decisive language. This should also serve as a lesson on how Iran disregards and in fact abuses any interceding measures and has refused to budge on any of its old tactics after the much boasted “historic” nuclear agreement.