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Amnesty International slams ‘sickening’ execution of domestic and sexual violence victim in Iran

Trio of Women in Chadors - Outside Gazor Khan - Northwestern Iran. (Adam Jones/Flickr)

Amnesty International have responded to reports that a 24-year-old Kurdish woman was executed on Wednesday morning in Urumieh central prison in the country’s West Azerbaijan province, calling it “sickening.”

Zeinab Sekaanvand was sentenced to death under ‘qesas’ (retribution in kind) in October 2014 after a trial before a criminal court in West Azerbaijan province, which convicted her of the murder of her husband. Amnesty International said the trial was “grossly unfair.”

She was arrested in February 2012 at a police station where she confessed to the murder of her husband. She was held in the police station for the next 20 days where she said she was tortured by male police officers through beatings all over her body.

She confessed that she stabbed her husband after he had subjected her to months of physical and verbal abuse and had refused her requests for divorce. She was only provided with a state-appointed lawyer at her final trial session, at which point she retracted her confession, telling the judge that her husband’s brother, whom she said had raped her several times, had committed the murder. She said that the judge told her that, if she accepted responsibility, he would pardon her.?

Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement: “The execution of Sekaanvand is a sickening demonstration of the Iranian authorities’ disregard for the principles of juvenile justice and international human rights law. Zeinab was just 17 years old at the time of her arrest. Her execution is profoundly unjust and shows the Iranian authorities’ contempt for the right of children to life. The fact that her death sentence followed a grossly unfair trial makes her execution even more outrageous.

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“Sekaanvand said that, soon after she was married at 15, she sought help many times from the authorities about her violent husband and alleged that her brother-in-law had raped her repeatedly. Instead of investigating these allegations, however, the authorities consistently ignored her and failed to provide her with any support as a victim of domestic and sexual violence.

“After the murder of her husband, Zeinab Sekaanvand said she was interrogated under torture by male police officers without a lawyer present. During her final trial session, where she was allowed a lawyer for the first time, she retracted her earlier ‘confession’ that she had murdered her husband, saying that she had been coerced to make it. Despite this, the judge refused to order a further investigation and instead sentenced her to death.

“It appears the Iranian authorities are increasingly scheduling the execution of people who were children at the time of the crime at very short notice to minimize the possibility of effective public and private interventions. We are horrified by their continuous use of the death penalty against people who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime, which is a violation of international human rights law. This is the fifth execution of a juvenile offender that we have recorded this year and we fear that it will not be the last unless urgent action is taken by the international community.

“We continue to urge the Iranian authorities to immediately establish an official moratorium on executions, commute all death sentences with a view to abolishing the death penalty, and prohibit the use of the death penalty against people below the age of 18 at the time of the crime.”

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to kill the prisoner.

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© 2018 the Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)

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