Iran Urged to Annul Death Sentence against Kurdish Prisoner

by Saeed
Iranian Kurdish prisoner Ramin Hossein Panahi, who was arrested last June for alleged membership of the Kurdish nationalist group Komala, was repeatedly beaten in detention, denied medical care and access to a lawyer, and held in solitary confinement until January, UN rights experts said in a news release on Wednesday.

His trial took place in the Revolutionary Court, and lasted less than an hour, raising additional concerns. “Executing Mr. Panahi, following his torture, and unfair trial and on the basis of charges that do not meet international standards for the use of death penalty, would be unconscionable,” the rights experts said, and added, “We remind Iran that the only thing that distinguishes capital punishment from arbitrary execution is full respect for stringent due process guarantees.”

Despite marks of torture on Mr. Panahi’s body, the court did not order an investigation. He was allowed only one meeting with his lawyer between his arrest and the trial and no family visits. These issues, along with ongoing concerns about Mr. Panahi, who reportedly began a hunger strike early in 2018, have the UN experts speaking out.

As well, members of Mr. Panahi’s family have apparently been convicted in separate summary trials, and sentenced to long prison terms. These possible reprisals for efforts to obtain information on Mr. Panahi’s situation are deeply troubling.

The experts say that the Supreme Court branch in Qom reaffirmed Mr. Panahi’s death sentence earlier in April, and his case was due to be passed to the Office of Implementation. His lawyer has appealed for a judicial review. In the news release, they note that they are speaking with Iranian authorities regarding Mr. Panahi’s situation.

The UN rights experts include Agnes Callamard, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Dainius Puras, the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; and Nils Melzer, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The Geneva-based Human Rights Council appoints UN Special Rapporteurs and independent experts to examine and report about specific human rights themes or a country’s situation. The term “rapporteur” is a French-derived word for an investigator who reports to a deliberative body. The experts are not UN staff, their positions are honorary, and they are not paid for their work.