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UN says Iran must overturn three death sentences

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. Iran says that it will persecute the 'thugs' who perpetrated protests last year.

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A group of UN rights experts called Thursday on Iran to overturn death sentences imposed on three people for participating in protests, after they were allegedly tortured into making confessions.

Iran’s Supreme Court earlier this week upheld the death penalty against the three, Amir Hossein Moradi, Saeed Tamjidi, and Mohammad Rajabi, for criminal actions during protests last November sparked by a hike in petrol prices.

Condemning Iran’s death sentences

“Today we join hundreds of thousands of Iranians on social media who condemned these death sentences,” said the more than a dozen independent UN experts, on issues like arbitrary executions, freedom of assembly and torture.

“We urge the head of the judiciary to immediately quash this decision and to grant a prompt and independent judicial review,” they said in a statement.

The experts, who are appointed by the UN but who do not speak on behalf of the world body, also called for an “independent and impartial investigation into the allegations of torture”.

Read more: Why is Public Execution Such a Fuss? How Other Countries Execute Criminals?

The three men were charged with taking up arms to take lives and property and for participating in vandalism and arson during the protests, something they have denied, the statement said.

They were initially sentenced to death in February by a court that also imposed prison and flogging sentences against them on other charges.

Protests against hike in gasoline prices: ‘thugs’ to be sentenced

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

They said the three had confessed after being subjected to torture, including beatings, electric shocks and being hung upside down by their feet.

Read more: Iran to execute spy who aided US in killing of Soleimani

They were denied medical care and denied access to a lawyer during interrogations, and their chosen lawyers were not allowed to represent them in the Supreme Court and were blocked from accessing their case files during the trial, they said.

The experts stressed that imposing the death penalty “on the basis of overboard national security charges would amount to an egregious violation of Iran’s human rights obligations”.

“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,” they said.

Iran has blamed last year’s violence on “thugs” backed by its foes the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The demonstrations erupted after authorities more than doubled fuel prices overnight, exacerbating economic hardships in the sanctions-hit country.

Petrol pumps were torched, police stations attacked and shops looted, before security forces stepped in amid a near-total internet blackout.

Read more: Ex Mayor of Tehran sentenced to death for wife’s murder: Iran

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

At least 304 people were killed as the protests were violently suppressed by state security forces, the UN experts said.

Not an isolated incident

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 protesters and torture to obtain false confessions. Other individuals have also reportedly been imprisoned and possibly sentenced to death for their participation in the protests.”

They called on Iran to conduct an independent, impartial and transparent investigation into the events of November 2019, to prosecute state officials involved in rights violations and to set free anyone detained for peacefully protesting.

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.

AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk

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