15 January 2023 :
Executions in Iran: the role of “revolutionary courts” in human rights violations
The Iranian government is attempting to brutally crack down on widespread protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody in September 2022.
Central to Iran’s response have been the country’s “revolutionary courts”. They conducted heavily criticized trials that resulted in at least four executions, while more than 100 protesters are in serious risk of imminent execution.
Criminal trials in these courts often take place behind closed doors, are presided over by clerics, without any of the standard guarantees of criminal procedure such as allowing time and access for lawyers to prepare a defence.
Communications to the United Nations by Iranian civil society organizations report that lawyers are routinely denied access to clients and that coerced confessions, often obtained through torture, are used as evidence.
Tara Sepehri Far, senior Iran researcher at Human Rights Watch, describes the trials as “a total travesty of justice”.
Unfair trials by international standards have been a feature of the Iranian legal system since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
The courts were set up to try opponents of the regime who face national security charges, ill-defined charges that carry the death penalty. Such vague accusations include war against God (“Moharebeh”), corruption on Earth (“Ifsad fel Arz”), and armed rebellion (“baghi”).
The courts are an integral part of the Islamist consolidation of power that began a few months after the revolution. As reflected in the structure of the Iranian government, the courts complement the role of parastatal bodies such as the Basij.
The Basij are a paramilitary organization formed immediately after the revolution. It supports the “guidance patrol”, colloquially known as the “morality police”.
The Basij is essential to the Iranian authoritarian state. It comes under the command of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and is fiercely loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The US Treasury has imposed sanctions on senior Basij members and a business network it believes is funding the organization.
Covert trials by revolutionary courts, vague allegations, denial of lawyers, and evidence obtained under coercion and torture have focused attention on Iran’s flagrant and persistent violations of its international human rights obligations.
In 1975, Iran ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the right to life and the right to live free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The UN Human Rights Committee has said the death penalty is inconsistent with these guarantees, placing Iran in violation of its international human rights obligations.
The guarantee of the right not to be tortured is reaffirmed in the Convention Against Torture, which Iran has not ratified. It is the only country in the Middle East that has not done so and one of only 20 in the world.
In a periodic review of Iran’s human rights record, the United Nations recommended in 2020 that Iran ratify the treaty, end the use of torture, and credibly investigate and prosecute all allegations of torture. Iran rejected these recommendations.
The NGO “Center for Human Rights in Iran” warns that the executions are “a prelude to more state-sponsored killings of young people (executions, ndt) in the absence of a strong and coordinated international response”.
These hangings were described by exiled opposition parties as desperate efforts to prevent the inevitable overthrow of the regime, and by the US State Department as attempts to intimidate Iranians and suppress dissent.
Australia’s response to two executions late last year was to condemn the executions, issue a joint statement with Canada and New Zealand and subject Iran’s morale police and Basij to international sanctions.
Despite widespread international condemnation, Iran is delivering on its pledge to continue to crack down on protests.
We can condemn the country’s conduct and impose sanctions, but unfortunately Iran is free to persist despite the sanctions if it wishes.
At the very least, what international sanctions and global outrage can do is give heart and hope to protesters and help signal to them that the world is watching and standing with them.
(Source: The Conversation)