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UN Experts Urge Iran To Quash Death Sentences Against Protesters

IRAN -- Protesters demonstrate in Tehran, January 13, 2020

United Nations human rights experts have strongly condemned an Iranian Supreme Court’s decision to uphold death sentences against three men for taking part in protests last year.

“Today we join hundreds of thousands of Iranians on social media who condemned these death sentences,” the experts said in a joint statement on July 16, urging the head of Iran’s judiciary to “immediately quash this decision and to grant a prompt and independent judicial review.”

They also called for an “independent and impartial investigation into the allegations of torture” made by the trio -- Amir Hossein Moradi, 25, Saeed Tamjidi, 27, and Mohammad Rajabi, 25 -- followed by the prosecution of the perpetrators if their claims are founded.

Iran's judiciary said on July 14 that the Supreme Court had upheld the death sentences for criminal actions during protests in November 2019 sparked by a hike in gasoline prices.

The hashtag #Don’t_Execute in Persian has since trended globally on Twitter, being used more than 7 million times.

Iran could overturn the death sentences against the three, since a provision in Iran’s Code of Criminal Procedure authorizes the head of the judiciary to intervene in finalized rulings deemed to be in violation of Islamic law.

Under that provision, judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi could instruct the Supreme Court to issue a new verdict.

The death sentences against Moradi, Tamjidi, and Rajabi were originally imposed in February.

They have denied the charges and said they were tortured to make confessions, which were later used against them during trials.

“From the outset, their arrest and detention and subsequent trial is replete with allegations of denial of their due-process rights,” the UN independent experts said.

Their statement reads that international law “limits the imposition of the death penalty to the most serious crimes and precludes its imposition if a fair trial has not been granted and if other rights have been violated.”

It adds that the imposition of the death penalty “on the basis of overbroad national security charges would amount to an egregious violation of Iran’s human rights obligations.”

Iran was rocked by five days of unrest following a hike in gasoline prices in November 2019. The protests were violently suppressed by security forces.

Iranian authorities have still not released reliable information on the numbers of fatalities during the unrest.

A senior Iranian lawmaker said in June that 230 were killed and thousands injured during the protests, while Amnesty International said more than 300 people died in the crackdown.

The case of Moradi, Tamjidi, and Rajabi “is not an isolated incident,” the UN experts said, adding: “There are widespread reports of arbitrary detention of protestors and torture to obtain false confessions. Other individuals have also reportedly been imprisoned and possibly sentenced to death for their participation in the protests.”

The experts urged Iran to conduct an “independent, impartial, and transparent” investigation into the events, prosecute officials involved in human rights violations, and free all those detained for protesting peacefully.

The experts included Javaid Rehman, UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran; Agnes Callamard, special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions; Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, special rapporteur on rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; David Kaye, special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; and Nils Melzer, special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, among others.