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Impunity in Iran: The Death of Photojournalist Zahra Kazemi

Impunity in Iran: The Death of Photojournalist Zahra Kazemi

This report explores the ways in which the 2003 death of Iranian - Canadian photo journalist Zahra ( Ziba ) Kazemi illustrates chronic, systemic problems in Iran's law enforcement and justice systems. The report examines specific violations of Iranian and international law that occurred in the Kazemi case and identifies numerous structural impediments to accountability for human rights violations in Iran, concluding that significant reform of the judicial system is needed to counter ongoing impunity for violators.

 

 

Table of Contents

I. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

II. METHODOLOGY

A. Sources

B. Report Structure

III. INTRODUCTION

A. Event Narrative

1. Kazemi’s Arrest

2. Detention in Evin Prison

3. Transfer to Baghiatollah al-Azam Hospital

IV. OFFICIAL INVESTIGATION EFFORTS INTO KAZEMI’S DEATH

A. Investigation and report by the Special Presidential Commission (SPC)

B. Investigation and Report of the Parliamentary Article 90 Commission

Findings of the Parliamentary Article 90 Commission

1. Illegality of Kazemi’s arrest under Iranian law

2. Interference with investigation efforts into Kazemi’s death

3. Interference with the Article 90’s Commission’s constitutionally mandated

public reporting mechanism

C. Trial and acquittal of Reza Ahmadi for the “semi-intentional” killing of

Kazemi

Key issues in Ahmadi trial

1. Witnesses

2. Evidence

3. Counsel’s access to information and court documents

4. Verdict

V. PROBLEMS ILLUSTRATED BY THE KAZEMI CASE

A. Structural impediments to ensuring accountability for human

rights violations

1. Absence of an impartial, independent judicial system

2. Broad and overlapping powers to carry out detention and interrogation

shared by multiple organs

3. Ineffectiveness of judicial remedies to address judicial violations

i. Judicial handling of the Kazemi case

4. Weak, ineffective human rights investigatory bodies

i. Parliamentary Article 90 Commission

ii. Other human rights investigatory bodies

5. Weakness of the Rule of Law

B. Violations of Domestic and International Law in the Kazemi Case

1. Torture

i. Torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is prohibited under

international law 

ii. Torture is prohibited under Iranian domestic law

iii. Right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment

was violated in the Kazemi case

2. Rights of the accused

i. Iran’s obligations under international law include protections for rights of

the accused

 

ii. A range of legal protections for the rights of the accused exist in Iranian

domestic law

iii. Failure to respect rights of the accused in the Kazemi case

3. State failure to protect and respect the right to life

C. Duty of states under international law to provide a remedy

1. Duty of states to investigate and prosecute violations

2. State and individual responsibility under international law

i. State responsibility for violations of international human rights law

ii. Individual responsibility for violations of international criminal law

I. Modes of Responsibility

II. Superior Responsibility

III. Superior Responsibility in the Kazemi case

VI. CONCLUSION

A. Strengthening mechanisms of accountability

B. Strengthening the rule of law

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Tagged as:

Death in Prison, Free Speech, Right to Protest