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Iran urged to halt executions ahead of World Day against the Death Penalty

Navid Afkari (The Post Millennial/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Ahead of the World Day against the Death Penalty on October 10, Iranian and international human rights and media freedom groups denounced the use of capital punishment in Iran — the world’s second most prolific executioner after China.

The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Iran’s Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC) launched a campaign using the #notoexecution hashtag on social media to “save the lives of Iranian journalists and other prisoners of conscience.”

In a report published on October 8, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), which is also based in Paris, said Iran executed at least 251 people last year and 190 more in the first nine months of 2020.

Calling the use of the death penalty in Iran “an indelible stain on the human rights record of the Islamic Republic,” the FIDH said that many of the death sentences have been “issued and executed without required legal procedures and observing the standards of a fair trial.”

“The government can make concrete progress towards the abolition of this outdated and brutal practice by simply respecting international treaties to which Iran is bound,” said FIDH Secretary-General Adilur Rahman Khan.

Iran’s Islamic criminal law provides for the death penalty for many crimes.

According to the FIDH, Iranian women are subject to capital punishment “as a result of the discriminatory nature of several laws that directly concern them.”

Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community can also face the death penalty “because of the criminalization of certain same-sex conduct, which is punishable by death in Iran,” it said.

The FIDH said that members of the country’s ethnic minorities, including Kurds, Arabs, and Baloch, as well as religious minorities such as Sunni Muslims and Baha’is, are also being targeted.

In a statement on October 9, RSF and DHRC also urged the Iranian authorities to end executions, which they said “often target prisoners of conscience, including journalists.”

“Iranians have been fighting for years for the death penalty to be removed from the penal code. It is now urgent for the international community to come to their aid,” Nobel peace prize laureate and DHRC President Shirin Ebadi said.

According to the statement, at least 20 journalists, citizen-journalists, and bloggers have been sentenced to death in Iran in the past 20 years.

It said around 30 people are currently waiting in Iranian prisons for their death sentences to be carried out, including opposition journalist and activist Ruhollah Zam, who was sentenced in June.

Iran’s execution of 27-year-old wrestler Navid Afkari in September sparked an international outcry.

Afkari was convicted of stabbing a security guard to death during anti-government protests in 2018 — charges he has denied.