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Leading Iranian Lawyers Urge UN to Address Illegal Use of Death Penalty

In light of the escalating number of illegal executions in Iran, a group of leading Iranian human rights lawyers have penned a letter to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, urging him to promote global compliance with international law on capital punishment, particularly in countries that still practice the death penalty. As the Center for Human Rights in Iran reports, the lawyers advocate for restricting capital punishment to cases involving the most severe crimes, ensuring fair trials, and verdicts from competent courts.

In their letter, the lawyers assert that executions carried out based on coerced or false confessions should be categorized as extrajudicial killings and considered crimes against humanity. They further emphasize the imperative to strictly prohibit the use of the death penalty as a political tool.

To hold accountable countries that disregard international law on capital punishment, the lawyers propose a number of specific consequences, including referral to the International Criminal Court and the imposition of targeted sanctions. The complete letter and list of signatories follows.

Honorable António Guterres Secretary-General of the United Nations, Greetings, We would like to bring to your attention that according to official UN statistics, the Islamic Republic of Iran has the highest rate of executions in the world, relative to its population. This trend has been on the rise since September 16, 2022, coinciding with the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement, so much so that according to reports from human rights organizations, at least 582 people were executed in Iran last year, more than half carried out after the start of the protests in the last three months of 2022, an increase of about 75 percent compared to 2021. Meanwhile, many other defendants are still awaiting execution. Also, according to the report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, the Islamic Republic of Iran has executed more than 209 people this year. On this basis, on average, more than 10 people are executed in Iran every week, making the country one of the world’s highest enforcers of the death penalty. Considering the above, and the fact that: 1- Governments such as the Islamic Republic of Iran misuse the principle of national sovereignty and under its shelter, carry out extensive executions without concern for accountability to the international community. 2- The international community, due to the inefficiency of current laws and regulations, apart from condemning and expressing disgust for these inhumane actions, cannot take any other effective action to prevent them. 3- The issue of human rights and security is global, and all UN member states, in accordance with paragraph 3 of Article 1 of the UN Charter, are obligated and committed to preserving human rights, especially the right to life as the most fundamental human right, and preventing its violation globally. 4- Fulfilling this duty by countries requires reforming current regulations or drafting new international laws with tangible and real enforcement guarantees. In this regard, we, a group of Iranian lawyers, aiming to improve the global human rights situation and respect for the right to life and human dignity and prevent indiscriminate executions in countries like Iran, offer the following proposals for abolishing, controlling, or limiting the death penalty. We ask you, as the UN Secretary-General, if you accept and agree with these recommendations to attract the attention and consideration of the General Assembly in implementing Articles 10 and 13 of the Charter, with the powers derived from Articles 97 to 101 of the UN Charter. This will allow UN member states in the General Assembly to discuss and examine the recommendations in order to amend current regulations or draft new international laws for abolishing, controlling, or limiting the death penalty. A) Recommendations: 1- Encourage countries to abolish the death penalty from their laws. 2- Countries that, for any reason, cannot abolish the death penalty should limit its implementation only to serious crimes. 3- The implementation of the death penalty in serious crimes should only be permissible with the observance of fair trials and rulings of a competent court. 4- The execution of the death penalty with fabricated and forced confessions should be considered extrajudicial executions and crimes against humanity. 5- The issuance of the death penalty for political defendants should be strictly prohibited, and its implementation in the case of political defendants should be considered extrajudicial executions and crimes against humanity. B) Guarantee of implementing recommendations: Refusing to implement these regulations could result in all or any of the following actions: 1- Referring the case to the prosecutors of the International Criminal Court. 2- Setting up a fact-finding committee regarding executions. 3- Targeted sanctions against the executioners. 4- Preventing the presidency of any of the UN bodies 5- Expulsion or cancellation of membership from any UN branches or institutions.

With respect and thanks, Signatories: – Shirin Ebadi – Mehrangiz Kar – Ghassem Sholehsadi – Mohammad Olyaeifard – Hossein Raeesi – Saeid Dehghan


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