Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Iranian official media reports three sodomy executions

By Paul Canning

An Iranian media report picked up by an exiled Iranian opposition group says that three men were executed for homosexual sex 4 September. The report mentions 'lavat', articles 108 and 110 of the Islamic Penal Code.

Article 108 says "sodomy (or lavat) is sexual intercourse between men”, and article 110 says ”punishment for sodomy is killing; the Sharia judge decides on how to carry out the killing".

The report on the official ISNA Iranian news website was viewed 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).

She confirmed that the translation of the official report by the opposition group Iran Human Rights was accurate.

Numerous sources including international NGOs have reported the use of rape charges rather than sodomy in execution cases and the use of such charges against opposition activists and others whom the Iranian regime wants to punish.

The executions took place in the South-Western Iranian city of Ahwaz, near the Iraqi border, which is predominately Iranian Arab (Ahwazi), a minority which has suffered repression. However a source indicated that those executed may have been brought there from another part of Iran. The Iranian media report is based on a statement by the Prosecutor General of Ahwaz.

Vahdati said:
"From the text of the original news it is clear that the main "crime" was sodomy and that they had been involved in kidnapping, etc. too. [But] no article of the Penal Code has been quoted for kidnapping. That is, chances are they would not be considered people deserving to be killed if they were not involved in same sax relationship."

"The main reason for killing the .. three people is obviously sodomy, though [the report says] they had committed other illegitimate activities like kidnapping and theft associated with harassment - but there is no explanation of the details of kidnapping and theft .. which if it was true, must have made a lot of noise in town and there would have been a hint about it too."
The Iranian media report, she said, however does go into detail regarding three others executed at the same time.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) in its report 'We are a Buried Generation: Discrimination and Violence Against Sexual Minorities in Iran', released last December 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."
The Iranian government maintains that "most of these individuals have been charged for forcible sodomy or rape."

In January a stoning sentence against two teenagers in the Kurdistan city of Piranshahr in northwest Iran was reported, it was not clear whether this was for rape or sodomy Also in January the government run Iranian judiciary website reported that three men were hanged for allegedly raping a teenage boy. In February Amnesty International issued an action alert regarding a death sentence for 'lavat' given to a teenage boy in the city of Shiraz.

Updated to add: Mohammad Mustafaei, the Iranian lawyer well known for defending stoning victim Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani and who is in exile in Norway, has written an open letter to president Ahmadinejad in protest of the execution of the three, says Gay Middle East. He called the execution arbitrary and demanded further clarifications:
“Where the cases approved by the Supreme Court and given a hearing as well as permission for execution?” “Where the three represented by lawyers, and what are their names?” are some of the questions he posed.

“Three men under the pretext of being ‘gay’ and committing sodomy were sentenced to death and executed”. 
Mustafaei said that they may have been tortured by the authorities to confess for the “crime”.
“Mr. President,” he protested, “you have blood on your hands.” 
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