A few days ago, six prominent Iranian jurists and human rights lawyers penned a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, expressing their grave concerns over the escalating number of executions in Iran following months of nationwide protests.
The signatories – Mehrangiz Kar, Shirin Ebadi, Qasem Sholeh Sa'adi, Hossein Raisi, Mohammed Olyaiefard and Saeed Dehghan – outlined proposals to abolish, or at least limit, the use of capital punishment across the world and urged Guterres to present them to the UN General Assembly.
IranWire discussed whether such initiatives can help put an end to the Islamic Republic’s execution machine with two signatories of the letter.
What Does the Letter Tell Guterres?
In addition to executing protesters and dissidents, the Iranian judicial authorities hang hundreds of people on drug-related charges after trials that fail to comply with human rights standards in an attempt to suppress dissent.
The authors of the letter emphasized that the Islamic Republic and other countries exploit the principle of national "sovereignty" to carry out large-scale executions without fear of being held accountable.
The international community only offers condemnation and expresses repulsion toward mass executions because it lacks the legal means to take effective action against them.
Given these shortcomings, the letter called on Guterres to bring the issue of arbitrary executions to the agenda of the UN General Assembly.
Emphasizing the need to review and amend existing international regulations and laws, it requested Guterres to engage in discussions and evaluate proposals to reform current regulations or draft new international laws to eliminate or at least control and limit the use of the death penalty.
The letter also presented recommendations for ensuring the implementation of a moratorium on executions or, at the very least, reducing their frequency. These suggestions include referring cases to the prosecutors of the International Criminal Court, establishing a fact-finding committee on executions, imposing targeted sanctions on individuals involved in executions, denying leadership positions in UN bodies to entities associated with executions, and considering the revocation of membership from relevant UN bodies or institutions.
Can these Proposals Be Implemented?
One the signatories, Mehrangiz Kar, said that the letter was sent to Guterres because the UN framework offers many opportunities if there is a willingness to take action.
She said she expected a further rise in executions in Iran in the coming months because the government "is unable to meet the people's needs and is expecting a surge of discontent.”
Executions are intended to “instill fear” and “deter millions of hungry individuals from protesting, even if facing starvation, by creating the perception that the gallows are awaiting them,” she said.
“These concerns drove us to write this letter."
"Engaging in discussions on human rights with the Islamic Republic of Iran is discouraging because the government fundamentally disregards human rights standards," she also said.
The Proposals Are Technical, Realistic and Applicable
Mohammed Olyaiefard, another signatory of the letter, emphasized that the text takes a technical approach and aims to expose facts rather than grief and dissatisfaction.
"These facts are not specific to Iran but rather applicable to all countries carrying out executions," he said.
The lawyer highlighted the realistic aspects of the letter, particularly its emphasis on the fact that countries that cannot abolish the death penalty should limit it to "serious crimes" such as major bombings.
The letter addressed important issues specific to Iran such as mock trials and forced confessions, which are used by the Islamic Republic to mislead the world about the judicial processes.
But Olyaiefard clarified that the scope of the letter extends beyond Iran and encompasses other countries with high execution rates.
The letter was addressed to Guterres because he has the authority to raise important matters with the UN Security Council and the General Assembly, but Olyaiefard said that the lawyers plan to make similar pleas to governments around the world.