Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani
Date: 21 February 2014
We are deeply concerned about the reported spike in executions in Iran since the beginning of this year. In just over seven weeks, at least 80 people have been executed. Some reliable sources indicate the figure could be as high as 95.
The majority of these executions were for drug-related offences, which do not meet the threshold in international law of “most serious crimes” for which the death penalty may be applied. A number of individuals were also executed in secret and at least seven people have been executed in public this year.
We are especially concerned about the reported execution in secret of Mr Hadi Rashedi and Mr Hashem Sha’bani Amouri, both members of the Ahwaz Arab community. Their executions were reportedly carried out last month (January) following proceedings that did not meet international fair trial and due process standards, as laid out in article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The two men were reportedly sentenced to death on ill-defined charges of “enmity against God” (Moharebeh), corruption on earth (Mofsid fil-arz) and acts against national security. They were allegedly denied access to a lawyer and their families for the first nine months of their detention, and reportedly subject to torture to force confessions. Various UN Special Rapporteurs and United Nations human rights mechanisms had previously expressed serious concerns about their sentences and appealed to the Government not to proceed with the executions.
An escalation in executions, including of political prisoners and individuals belonging to ethnic minority groups, was notable in the second half of 2013. At least 500 people are known to have been executed in 2013, including 57 in public. According to some sources, the figure may be as high as 625.
We regret that the new Government has not changed its approach to the death penalty and continues to impose capital punishment for a wide range of offences. We urge the Government to immediately halt executions and to institute a moratorium.
On a related note, the Secretary-General and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran are due to present their reports to the 25th session of the Human Rights Council in the coming weeks.
2) Papua New Guinea
We are concerned about incidents that took place on 17 February in the Regional Processing Centre on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea (PNG), that left one asylum seeker dead and 77 others wounded, 13 of them seriously. While the precise circumstances are not yet clear, it is alarming to see violence against the very individuals who seek protection.
We stress the importance of a prompt, transparent and independent investigation into the violence and welcome the initial steps taken by Papua New Guinea and Australia in this regard. This incident underscores the need for independent monitors to be given full and immediate access to the Regional Processing Centre. We have been concerned at reports on the harsh conditions faced by asylum seekers in the processing centres in PNG and Nauru and, the serious impact of such inadequate conditions on their physical and mental health.
It has been reported that private security forces have been involved in the violence. We stress that States maintain their human rights obligations when they privatise delivery of services such as security, and must take steps to investigate, redress and punish human rights abuses by third parties.
The violent incidents took place in a situation of heightened tensions in the Regional Processing Centre, where an estimated 1,340 asylum seekers are currently detained. In July and August 2013, Australia announced the introduction of Regional Resettlement Arrangements, whereby asylum seekers arriving to Australia by boat would be transferred to Papua New Guinea and Nauru for processing.
We stress the obligation of Australia, PNG and Nauru to ensure that the human rights of asylum seekers are protected in accordance with international standards. The practice of detaining migrants and asylum seekers arriving by boat on a mandatory, prolonged and potentially indefinite basis, without individual assessment, is inherently arbitrary. Moreover, alternatives to immigration detention should always be considered. We encourage Australia, PNG and Nauru to review their Regional Resettlement Arrangements urgently to find principled solutions that are fully consistent with international human rights standards, including the right to seek asylum, the right to freedom from arbitrary detention, and the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
The decision by the Court of Appeals in Haiti on 20 February in favour of opening new investigations into former President Jean-Claude Duvalier for crimes against humanity is a landmark step for Haitian justice in combating impunity for past human rights violations.
The three-judge panel stated that the acts allegedly committed by Mr. Duvalier qualified as crimes against humanity and did not fall under the statute of limitations; and that crimes against humanity are part of Haitian law as they pertain to customary international law by which Haiti is bound.
The judges found that there was significant evidence of Mr. Duvalier’s criminal responsibility in his capacity as Head of State as he did not take the necessary measures to prevent or punish the alleged crimes.
The court appointed one of its own members to act as investigating judge who will interview witnesses, including persons associated with Mr. Duvalier.
ENDS For more information or media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / firstname.lastname@example.org) or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / email@example.com) or Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 / firstname.lastname@example.org )
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