Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Update on stoning execution case in Iran

Coat of arms of the Islamic Republic of Iran. ...Image via Wikipedia 
Source: Gay Middle East

By Paul Canning and Dan Littaeur


Some facts involved with the case of two men from Piranshahr, in northwest Iran, whose death sentence was reported yesterday (see 'Stoning sentence for two boys for alleged same sex in Iran') have today been disputed.

A number of sources who are investigating the details of the case, and who are in touch with those at the heart of it within Iran, have today spoken with the Iranian Queer Orqanization (IRQO) and Gay Middle East. In addition the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission has announced in a message publish by the Joe.My.God blog that they are also investigating details of the case.

Questions have been raised regarding the exact nature of the charges on which they have been given the death penalty. As reported in an update yesterday on the original report, those questions surround whether or not a rape occurred and whether this involved another person, a 15 or 17 year old minor.

As noted yesterday, the Iranian government, as reported by Human Rights Watch, maintains in response to international pressure regarding reported executions of homosexuals that they mostly involve “individuals [who] have been charged for forcible sodomy or rape”.

But as noted yesterday by Soheila Vahdati, an independent human rights defender based in San Francisco working with Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Iranian Queer Organisation (IRQO): “They [the Iranian government] don’t differentiate between rape and homosexual acts."

Whether those charged filmed their acts, what any such film contained and whether that was discovered has today been disputed by some sources.

At this stage it is, however, believed that all sources concur on the fact of a death sentence.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) in its report 'We are a Buried Generation: Discrimination and Violence Against Sexual Minorities in Iran', released last month stated that because trials on moral charges in Iran are usually held in camera, it is difficult to determine what proportion of those charged and executed for same-sex conduct are gay and in what proportion the alleged offense was consensual.

Because of the lack of transparency, Human Rights Watch said: "it cannot be ruled out that Iran is sentencing sexual minorities who engage in consensual same-sex relations to death under the guise that they have committed forcible sodomy or rape."

Their report also documents serious abuses, including due-process violations that occurred during the prosecution of sexual minorities charged with crimes.

Those charged with engaging in consensual same-sex offenses stand little chance, HRW say,  of receiving a fair trial.
"Judges ignore penal code evidentiary guidelines in sodomy cases and often rely instead on confessions extracted through physical torture and extreme psychological pressure. Both Iranian and international law consider such evidence inadmissible."
As we noted yesterday, some Muslim organisations have argued that the death penalty is religiously as well as morally wrong.

An international coalition of Muslim organisations (the Association of British Muslims (AOBM), Faith Matters, Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV), USA and Canada, Canadian Muslim Union (CMB), Members of The Royal Order of Noor of Buayan, Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW) and el-Tawhid Juma Circle) spoke out yesterday against the death sentence case in Piranshahr.
Update, 19 January: LezGetReal reports that a source,  who had direct contact with villagers and a family member told them:
"This is a case where the accused have already been so badly tortured that they were “hardly able to sign the confessions".”
They add that a source told them that a stoning has been ordered by a single Sharia Judge and that it is imminent.

Post author, Melanie Nathan, argues that:
While some bloggers and activists continue to ponder whether to publish this story based on possible factual errors and inaccuracies, and whether or not some believe there may be more harm than good in publishing this story, I would be remiss not to note that the bottom line is two young men aged 20 and 21 are likely to be stoned to death in a matter of days. Regardless of the investigations or facts surrounding the case itself , regardless of categorizing the event as gay sex, rape, or same-sex with consent and notwithstanding allegations that the face of Iranian President Ahmadinejad appeared in a video recording of the event, stoning anyone is depraved and unconscionable and for as long as such continues unchecked by Mainstream media or the US Department of State, we as a society ought to be ashamed.
Update, January 19: IGLHRC have put out a statement, saying that they have been "unable to confirm the allegations in this case."
“Iran has an impenetrable and opaque criminal justice system that makes knowing what is really happening inside the country impossible,” said Hossein Alizadeh, Regional Coordinator for IGLHRC’s Middle East and North Africa Program. “What we do know is that killing is wrong in all its forms, even when committed by the State.”
They called on the Government of Iran to "immediately annul any execution order related to this case, to end the practice of death by stoning, and to repeal the criminalization of same-sex activity."

Update, 20 January: IRQO have released a statement. They say that Iranian Kurdish activists have verified the fact of the stoning but are still gathering detailed information about the two young men and the third one who was allegedly their victim.
"We urge the Iranian People to intervene and prevent another tragedy that wounds the soul of our people," they say.
Update, 21 January: A statement issued 'European Commission and US State Department Urged to Appeal to Iran for Mercy for Two Young Men Sentenced to Death by Stoning' by three websites, including this one. Includes news that US State Department official has indicated that they may join in taking action with European Union.

Labour MEP Michael Cashman (@mcashmanMEP), Labour MP Chris Bryant (@chrisbryantmp) LGBT Conservative Party supporters (@lgbtoryuk), LGBT Labour Party supporters (@lgbtlabour) and Green MP Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) have all tweeted that they are taking action.

A coalition of Italian organisations have demanded European Union intervention - EveryOne Group, Nessuno Tocchi Caino, Arcigay, Associazione Radicale Certi Diritti, Radicali Italiani, Associazione Luca Coscioni, Non c’è Pace Senza Giustizia, Nuova Proposta, donne e uomini omosessuali cristiani, 3D-Democratici per pari Diritti e Dignità di lesbiche, gay, bisessuali e trans, Agedo - Associazione genitori, parenti e amici di omosessuali, Associazione Famiglie Arcobaleno, Crisalide Pangender.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reportedly said the following yesterday whilst addressing officials in the city of Yazd:
"They asked me (at Columbia) why you crack down on homosexuals in Iran? I answered we don't have so many homosexuals in Iran because we believe this act is against the human spirit and humanity."
Soheila Vahdati, an independent human rights defender based in San Francisco working with Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Iranian Queer Organisation (IRQO), says that she is aware of ten people currently in prison in Iran facing execution by stoning. publish 'MEP Michael Cashman says he’s working to stop Iranian gay executions'.

Gay Middle East (GME) says that their source "confirms the boys are thankfully still alive, although imprisoned. This means we need to intensify the campaign to save them."

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) also said that the men were not executed today, as it had been reported they would be.

Concurring, Hossein Alizadeh, regional coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Program of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), said "to the best of our knowledge no such execution took place today."
"In spite of persistent efforts, IGLHRC continues to be unable to verify the facts in this case. We remain opposed to the death penalty on any basis and urge the Iranian authorities to annul this or any other execution order," he added
GME also report that Simon Hughes MP, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, "has taken interest in the case and his office is currently examining the case and how to take further action."

Update, 22 January: A petition is being prepared. One currently being publicised via Twitter is not authorised by those closest to the case.

A hashtag is being used by some people on Twitter to follow the case: #AMSTONING

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Update: January 27: GME reports that action is being taken by the European External Action Service to save the men's life.
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