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ROME, Mar 15 2010 (IPS) - The latest report of Hands Off Cain (1) documents no fewer than 346 executions in Iran in 2008, a figure far exceeded by the total for 2009. Iran’s theocratic regime is second only to China in its implementation of the death penalty.
However, the real numbers might even be even higher, given that Iranian authorities do not release official statistics for executions. The figures available are culled from local newspapers by humanitarian organisations, which have no complete source of information on the practice.
According to Iranian lawyer Mohammed Mostafei, the real number of executions is much higher than those given by humanitarian organisations. Mostafei provides legal defense for many charged with capital offenses, particularly 25 prisoners condemned to death for crimes committed when they were minors. “In my calculations, in 2008 there were over 400 executions, and perhaps as many as five or even six hundred,” says Mostafei, who was arrested and taken to an undisclosed location on June 26, 2009, for having taken part in the mass demonstrations that swept the country in response to the fraudulent elections of last June 12, when President Ahmadinejad was officially proclaimed the victor.
The execution of people who were minors when they committed their crimes is a clear violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Iran signed and ratified and yet continues to violate.
The method of execution preferred by Islamic law is hanging. though recent years have seen cases of stoning and even throwing the condemned off a cliff.
Repression of members of religious and ethnic minorities has also continued, especially against the Azeris, Kurds, and Baluch, as has the imposition of capital punishment for what are essentially political motives and for non-violent offenses.
Two men, Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani, 37, and Arash Rahmani Pour, 20, were hanged on January 28 for allegedly being militants in the pro-monarchy organisation Tondar. It would seem that this is the first execution for participation in protests against the fraudulent re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, though 13 other people have been charged with the same offense and sentenced to death.
In addition to the death penalty, Iranian Islamic law sanctions various forms of torture, the mutilation of limbs, whipping, among other cruel, inhuman, and degrading practices. Nor are these restricted to isolated cases; they are cited by thousands and thousands of young people each year who are whipped for drinking alcohol or attending parties where men and women are both present. The regime is particularly severe with women whom it considers to be insufficiently covered in the street or other public places.
When in 2007 the UN General Assembly approved its historic resolution in favour of a universal moratorium on executions, Iran was the only country that categorically refused to consider the proposal. The government of Teheran instead opted for a categoric opposition to international law and human rights conventions.
The significance of this intransigent attitude is most easily understood in relation to the continuing development of Iran’s nuclear programme. However, it is necessary to consider the fact that if the government of Iran today represents a threat to international security on the nuclear front, this is because it has been allowed for too long to be a threat to the security of its own citizens. In this context, European policy and its search for a “constructive dialogue” with Teheran has resulted in the omission of demands that Iranian authorities respect human rights; its responsibility for the current situation must therefore be acknowledged.
It is equally grave that Italy continues to consider Iran a valid interlocutor in the search for a solution to the problems of the Middle East; instead, it should be recognised as part of the problem. It is precisely the respect for fundamental human rights that the current theocratic system simply cannot allow, because this would plunge it into crisis. Europe and the West must revise their policy towards Iran regarding this contradiction and reorient it towards the necessity of respecting human rights. (END/COPYRIGHT IPS)
(1) Hands Off Cain is an international organisation against the death penalty.
(*) Elisabetta Zamparutti is deputy in Italian parliament and treasurer of Hands Off Cain.
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