On July 30th, the Iranian judicial system ordered the execution of over 100 inmates of Tehran Central Prison, many of whom were being held on charges for drug offenses. Sentenced to capital punishment through an approved verdict, more than half of those sentenced are believed to be under the age of 32. The move comes at a time when the United Nations is showing its vulnerability to influence and curb the increasingly dire situation of human rights’ in the Islamic Republic.
This vulnerability is linked to the stepping down of Dr. Ahmed Saheed, the UN Special Rapporteur monitoring Iran’s human rights situation, in July. Dr. Saheed’s resignation has allowed well-known Iranian theoretician and Tehran’s ‘human rights’ representative Mohammad Javad Larijani to reinstate the regime’s right to utilize the death penalty as a tool to abate what they call “serious crimes”.
Iran’s state-controlled media outlets reported Larijani’s raving commentary against the original appointment of a UN Special Rapporteur, labeling it as undemocratic.
“We did not appoint him, so we do not have any duty to dismiss him as well,” Larijani said.
“Nevertheless, another year is left to his illegitimate tenure. Appointing the UN Special Rapporteur for Iran is unjustified and illegal. Ahmad Shaheed was not yet long appointed when he almost took a stand against the Islamic Republic.”
On the one hand, through the mouthpiece of Larijani, the Iranian regime balks at the Western power’s position on the death penalty, calling it “baseless”. It’s the same hand though with which, through the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal last year, has given the Iranian regime access to a wealth of trade and cooperation agreements with these same Western powers it criticizes.
Over time the much-touted “new openness” between Iran and the world has failed to shepherd in an era of greater freedoms for ordinary Iranian workers and citizens. The execution rate has increased under the 3-year tenure of President Rouhani, with 966 individuals adjudicated and condemned to death last year.
A failure by the regime to respond to calls to halt executions shows that moderation and reform remain only abstract terminology, according to numerous human rights campaigners. But what was made concrete is the regime’s fear of the alternative to fundamentalist rule; heard when Mr. Larijani lashed out saying: “the way the western countries cooperate with the PMOI (People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran) [and this] is in many ways, a violation of human rights.”
Given that the PMOI pushes for a democratic and free Iran, working as a coalition member of the NCRI (National Council of Resistance of Iran), Larijani’s proposition has a rhetorical tone.
Furthermore Mr. Larijani has claimed: “despite all the current pressure, the Islamic Republic of Iran has made the largest democracy in the region.” But it is the main opposition group, the NCRI, which continually calls for the UN Special Rapporteur to “urgently take necessary and effective action to halt the wave of medieval tortures [but also executions].”
This story is ongoing.