In a statement issued today, Justice For Iran urged The European Commission to include all individual and legal entities responsible for the grave human rights violations committed by the Iranian authorities against Arab minorities in Iran, specially judges Morteza KIASATI and Seyed Mohamad Bagher MOUSSAVI, Mohammad SARAFRAZ, Head of IRIB World Service and PRESS TV and Press TV as a legal entity which violates human rights and international provisions by broadcasting forced false confessions of the Arab detainees who have been coerced under torture.
Below is the full text of the statement:
Justice For Iran Urges EU to Sanction the Responsible Officials for Grave Violation of the Rights of the Arab Minority
Justice For Iran compels the European Commission to acknowledge the grave human rights violations committed by the Iranian authorities against Arab minorities in Iran. This misconduct has in the past been described as “disturbing” by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the European Commission, as in her June 21 statement: “The High Representative is disturbed by the reported execution of three Ahwazi Arab men, detained since 2011 on grounds which reliable reports suggest are political. The EU has expressed, on numerous occasions, its concern about the position of minorities in the country and has called on Iran to refrain from discriminatory policies. On capital punishment, the EU has called on Iran, as it does on all states which insist on maintaining the death penalty, to halt pending executions and to introduce a moratorium.”
Justice For Iran urges the inclusion of all individual and legal entities responsible for these atrocities in the sanction list, and especially the four following individuals:
● Morteza KIASATI and Seyed Mohamad Bagher MOUSSAVI, Ahvaz Revolutionary Court, branch 4 and 2 judges who have been directly responsible for human rights violations.
● Mohammad SARAFRAZ, Head of IRIB World Service and PRESS TV, the Iranian English television broadcasters.
● PRESS TV as a legal entity violating Human Rights and international provisions by broadcasting forced false confessions of detainees who have been coerced under torture. This constitutes a clear violation of international regulations on fair trials and the right to due process.
Justice for Iran is a non-profit, non-governmental organization established in July 2010. Using methods such as documenting instances of human rights violations, collecting information and conducting research, JFI strives to use international legal and political mechanisms to hold accountable officials who are responsible for the severe and widespread violations of human rights in Iran.
January and February 2012 saw the start of a wave of arrests of Arab activists in Iran. In the city of Shush alone, agents of the Ministry of Intelligence arrested over 30 people who were actively supporting and advertising the boycotting of the March 2012 parliamentary elections. Shortly after these arrests, which resulted in the detention of over 60 people in the province of Khuzestan, sources close to the families of some of the detainees reported that at least two of the protesters were killed under torture while in custody at the detention centres.
The severe violations of the rights of the Arab detainees, the complete silence of the official news agencies inside the country about these events in Ahvaz, capital of Khuzestan province, as well as the detainees’ families’ lack of information regarding their fate, compelled Justice for Iran to begin intense research on the matter. As a result of their investigations, JFI published an announcement as well as reports regarding the conditions of the Arab detainees and the impunity enjoyed by the agents of these atrocities, who, among other things, had killed two of the individuals in custody. On July 11 2012, in a detailed report,Human Rights Watch confirmed the arrest of over 65 Arab minorities by intelligence agents and demanded that Iranian officials conduct an investigation into the death of the two individuals. HRW has already expressed alarm about the violations against ethnic Arab community in the South of Iran and the injustices that they endure, in May 2005.
A short video in which four detainees sentenced to death (Taha Haidarian, Jamshid Haidarian, Moansour Haidarian and Ali Sharifi ) talk about the regular torture they had to undergo and the false confessions that they were forced to declare in front of the cameras has been uploaded and shared massively in the Internet and via social networking sites. These four individuals, the three Heidarian brothers and Ali Sharif were hanged on 18 June 2012, only three days after the video was recorded clandestinely inside the prison. Although they stated that their “confessions” were extracted under torture during the trials, the judge failed to revise their sentence. This led to frustrated dissent among political activists inside and outside of the prison in Ahwaz, and some were arrested and or forced into cells.
The South-Western province of Khuzestan where much of Iran’s oil and gas reserves are located, has a large ethnic Arab population believed to number over 2 million residents. Despite natural resource wealth, ethnic Arabs have long complained about the lack of socioeconomic development in the region. They also allege that the Iranian government has systematically discriminated against them, particularly in employment, housing, and civil and political rights. In this part of Iran any protest or assertion with this regard is treated as a political, separatist or terrorist action which is dealt with in closed trials. This fact is also mentioned in the HRW report on Arab minorities in 2005: “The Iranian authorities have again displayed their readiness to silence those who denounce human rights violations. We have serious allegations the government used excessive lethal force, arbitrary arrests and torture in Khuzestan”
JFI has previously published a report on PRESS TV’s illegal activities entitled “Cut! Take PRESS TV off the air!” In April 2012 PRESS TV, the Iranian English television broadcaster was banned in the United Kingdom after showing Maziar Bahari’s false (coerced) confession. This television broadcaster has aired three different shows containing the coerced confessions of the Arab detainees. The 4 detainees (Taha Haidarian, Jamshid Haidarian, Moansour Haidarian and Ali Sharifi ) were forced to make their “confession” in front of PRESS TV cameras before any due trial was held. All of the four individuals were hanged on the 18th of June 2012, months after the show was broadcast on PRESS TV. Another 5 Arab political and cultural activists were sentenced to death recently. The false confessions of two of these individuals have already been shown on PRESS TV on the 13th of December 2012.
As mentioned in the statement against the executions that was signed by 16 human rights organizations and individuals, many of the Arab prisoners are held in security detention centres in the province of Khuzestan or in prisons across Iran. There is particular concern surrounding the ambiguous statuses of the other Ahwazi Arab political prisoners who share the same case file as the Heidarian brothers and Ali Sharifi, who were all hanged on the 18 June 2012.
Call To Action
On the 23rd of March 2012 The European Council reiterated (for the second time) after 23 January 2012, the EU restrictive measures adopted in response to serious human rights violations in Iran and prolonged them by 12 months. The Council added 17 people responsible for serious human rights violations to the list of those subject to a travel ban and an asset freeze. This brought the total number of targeted individuals to 78.
With regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of The European Union, and in particular Article 215(2) therein, in accordance to The European Council Decision 2010/413/CFSP of 26 July 2010 concerning restrictive measures against Iran, and in particular Article 1 therein, Justice For Iran urges the immediate inclusion of the following individual and legal entities in the listing:
- KIASATI Morteza, Judge, Ahwaz Revolutionary Court, branch 4. He is responsible for the death of at least four political prisoners. Taha Heidarian, Abbas Heidarian, Abdorahman Heidarian (three brothers), and Ali Sharifi were arrested, tortured, and sentenced to death by Kaiasati being hanged in absence of any due process. Their bodies have still not been returned to their families. On June 28, 2012, three UN human rights experts including the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment condemn these executions in Iran. In their statement, they emphasised: “Given the lack of transparency in court proceedings, major concerns remain about due process and fairness of trials in cases involving the death penalty in Iran.” They also stressed: “Any death sentence undertaken in contravention of those international obligations is tantamount to an arbitrary execution.”
- MOUSSAVI Seyed Mohammad Bagher, Judge, Ahwaz Revolutionary Court, branch 2. He is responsible for ordering the death sentence of five Iranian Arab Ahwazi prisoners. Hashem Shabani, Hadi Rashedi and two brothers, Djaber Alboushkeh and Mokhtar Alboushkeh were arrested on April 19th 2011 and sentenced to death on March 17th 2012 for “activities against national security” and Muharebeh (waging war against God) in an Ahwaz-revolutionary court, 4th branch. Kiasati has a reputation for heavy sentences for Arab political and cultural activists.According to Amnesty International, they were detained without any charges being brought against them for almost a year and all were arrested in connection with their activities on behalf of Iran’s Ahwazi Arab minority. It is feared they will not receive a fair trial and may be at risk of torture or other ill treatment. These Arab activists are at imminent danger of execution. Both of the judges are responsible for giving death sentences without any substantial evidence. As mentioned in the HRW report on Iran, released on July 11 2012, “Human Rights Watch has documented numerous cases in which Iranian security forces used physical and psychological coercion including torture to secure false confessions in security-related cases, and courts have convicted defendants on terrorism-related charges in trials in which prosecutors relied primarily, if not solely, on confessions and failed to provide any convincing evidence establishing the defendant’s guilt.” HRW affirms the responsibility of the judges: “The judiciary has put forth no public evidence suggesting that these men should spend one more day in prison, let alone hang from the gallows,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The lack of transparency surrounding these men’s convictions and sentences is just one more reason why these execution orders should be quashed.”
- SARAFRAZ Mohammad, Head of IRIB World Service and PRESS TV, the Iranian English Broadcasting TV. As Head of PRESS TV, he is responsible for all programming decisions. Press TV has broadcast coerced confessions of detainees and a series of “The Al-Ahwaz Terrorist Groups in Khuzestan” and “Al-Ahwazi terrorist group in Iran” in which their false confessions under torture were televised. This constitutes a clear violation of international provisions on the right to a fair trial and the right to due process. We ask that his name be included in the listing as was the case for Ezzatollah ZARGHAMI in the Council decision 2012/168/CFSP of 23 March 2012, whereby the report stated “as Head of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), he is responsible for all programming decisions. IRIB has broadcast forced confessions of detainees and a series of “show trials” in August 2009 and December 2011. These constitute a clear violation of international provisions on fair trial and the right to due process.”
- PRESS TV, Iranian English broadcasting television, as a legal entity due to its several violations of Human Rights. In January 2012, Britain’s communications regulator OFCOM revoked Press TV’s license to broadcast in the UK after the channel refused to pay penalties resulting from a complaint filed by Iranian-Canadian journalist, Maziar Bahari. Mr Bahari was forced to “confess” to a Press TV camera while he was being held prisoner in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. OFCOM also stated that it was revoking the channel’s license because Press TV’s content undergoes quality control in Tehran. On April 3, 2012, Munich’s media regulatory office (BLM) announced that it was banning Press TV broadcasts from SES Astra. However, this decision was temporarily suspended in June 2012 until the court to investigate Press TV’s complaint against BLM will be hold. Nevertheless, Press TV continues to broadcast globally on 14 satellites. The report entitled “Cut! Take Press TV Off the Air” by JFI is being submitted to Germany’s Commission for Licensing and Supervision (ZAK) in advance of a 24 April meeting to review Press TV’s case file. JFI is calling on the Commission to ban Press TV broadcasts on all German-owned satellites. “Cut! Take Press TV Off the Air” condemns Press TV’s practice of airing interviews with political prisoners asserting that they are “confessions extracted under torture,” and are broadcast without the detainee’s consent. Citing interviews with former political prisoners the report paints a grim picture of how prisoners are compelled to “confess” and instructed on what they are expected to say.
Justice for Iran urges The European Council to include Morteza Kiasati, Seyed Mohammad Bagher Moussavi and Mohammad Sarafraz as well as PRESS TV (as a legal entity) in the European sanctions list. We also call The European Council to compile the aforementioned list with all individual and legal violators of human rights of all peoples especially minorities.