Letter from Political Prisoners Held in Gohardasht, Evin and Orumiyeh Prisons to the UN Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed Regarding the Death Sentence of Saman Nasim
|Saman Nasim during his televised confession in 2011 (Photo credit: HRANA)|
(February 17, 2015) – Last Friday, twenty Iranian political prisoners detained in three separate prisons across Iran issued a letter to the UN Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in Iran, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed. In the letter, the prisoners decry the application of the death penalty in the case of Saman Nasim. Mr. Nasim has been in prison since July 2011, when he was arrested by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) after a firefight between members of the IRGC and the Kurdish separatist party PJAK near the Iran-Iraq border. In the following months Mr. Nasim faced lengthy pre-trial interrogations while being held incommunicado. During this period he claims he was subjected to severe torture, in a pattern corresponding with dozens of cases documented by the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC). At his trial later that year, Mr. Nasim was sentenced to death by Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court of Mahabad on charges of moharebeh, or “waging war against God.” Iran’s Islamic Penal Code defines this crime as, “[D]rawing a weapon on the life, property or chastity of people or to cause terror.” As with many cases trying the crime of moharebeh, the primary form of evidence used to show Mr. Nasim’s guilt appears to have been a confession, which was televised not long after his arrest. Mr. Nasim later refuted this confession.
Although there are several PJAK members in prison or on death row on similar charges, Mr. Nasim was 17 at the time of his arrest. Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), to which Iran is a signatory, prohibits the use of capital punishment against individuals convicted of crimes committed before the age of 18. Nonetheless Iran remains one of the world’s most prolific executioners of juveniles, relying in part on a general reservation to the CRC states that Iran reserves the right “not to apply any provisions or articles of the Convention that are incompatible with Islamic Laws.” However, the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, to which Iran is also a signatory, prohibits reservations so vague as to be “incompatible with the object and purpose of the treaty.” The fifty-ninth session of the International Law Commission in 2007 concluded likewise that, “it cannot be maintained that the effect of reservations could possibly be to prevent a treaty as a whole from producing its effects.”
The Islamic Republic of Iran’s executions of several individuals annually for crimes committed as minors are indeed contrary to the object and purpose of the CRC. IHRDC joins the prisoners below in calling on the Iranian government to immediately commute Saman Nasim’s death sentence and retry him in legal proceedings upholding Iran’s commitments regarding due process and the rights of defendants.
Translation of the letter from the twenty political prisoners in Gohardasht, Evin and Orumiyeh Prisons to the UN Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed regarding the death sentence of Saman Nasim:
The execution machine of this ruthless government, which is opposed to human rights and all democratic and human values, marches on at a rapid pace. On average, this machine is fed three people a day, making Iran the country with the highest per capita execution rate in the world. Meanwhile, Iran ranks 173rd in the world in terms of freedom of speech! Not a day goes by in which a death sentence is not issued on some pretext or other after unlawful trials. Every day the number of prisoners on death row increases, and unfortunately, the nooses are tied ever more tightly.
This time, the lottery has picked Saman Nasim, a Kurdish compatriot, to be fed to this man-killing beast, despite the government’s stipulation that this person was under the age of 18 at the time he committed his crime. Under international law, he was a child and a child cannot be sentenced to what he or she cannot bear. This swindler of all ages acts like the people of Sabbath, who, when faced with the prohibition on fishing on Saturdays, would constrict the fish in the lakes on Saturday and catch them on Sundays. They confine a 15 or 16 year old, or even a 13 or 14 year old, until he reaches the age of 18, and then they execute him! It is truly a source of shame for us Iranians to witness these unlawful and violent acts and massacres every day. There is no authority to which one can appeal. More shameful, however, is that a government that executes the likes of Reyhaneh and Saman, and the lawyers and journalists who have ties to the government and feed from the blood of this nation and continue their shameful lives, and state that if human rights proponents had not supported Reyhaneh, the family of the victim would not have been stubborn and would have forgiven her. But they do not say that the verdict, the judge, the guard, the executioner, the noose-maker and the noose are all [agents of] this government, not of the victim’s family.
The undersigned condemn the inhuman penalty of execution, and ask the UN Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed and all international organizations to save the life of this Kurdish compatriot and to address and condemn this inhuman act.
Signatures of political prisoners held in Gohardasht, Evin and Orumiyeh prisons in alphabetical order:
Hasan Fathali Ashtiani
Reza Akbari Monfared
Karim Marouf Aziz
Friday February 13, 2015
The text of the prisoners’ letter in Nasim’s defense