Iran: Time for judicial reform and end to secret trials
Amnesty International INDEX: MDE 13/25/99
16 September 1999
Amnesty International today condemned the death sentences passed
against four people arrested in connection with student demonstrations
in Iran in July 1999 and called for the immediate halt of trials held in
In an interview with the newspaper Jomhuri-ye Eslami on 12 September
1999, Gholamhossein Rahbarpour, the President of Tehran Revolutionary Court,
announced the death sentences against the four and stated that two of the
sentences had already been approved by the Supreme Court. He gave no information
as to the identity of those sentenced or details of the charges and trial
proceedings against them.
"The trial appears to have been conducted in complete secrecy
and with no opportunity for a proper appeal procedure. We are calling
for immediate commutation of the death sentences, urgent clarification
of the names of those sentenced, fair re-trials and the release of all
those held for their peaceful participation in the demonstrations,"
said Amnesty International.
One of those arrested, Manuchehr Mohammadi, a leading member of
the Anjoman-e Daneshjuyan va Daneshamukhtegan Melli (National Association
of Students and Graduates) appeared on state television shortly after the
demonstrations "confessing" to his involvement with "counter-revolutionary
agents", an activity punishable by death in Iran. Any conviction
or sentence based on "confessions" under such circumstances would
violate Article 11 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which
states that "Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to
be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial
in which he has had all the guarantees for his defence."
"Torture is widespread in Iran and we fear that Manuchehr Mohammadi
and others may have been tortured in order to extract such confessions
from them. Everyone has the right to be presumed innocent until convicted
after fair trial proceedings. The right not to be compelled to testify
against oneself or to confess guilt is fundamental to this presumption
of innocence". The organization added.
Amnesty International has long-standing concerns regarding unfair
trials in Iran. Trial proceedings in Islamic Revolutionary Courts fall
far short of international standards for fair trial. They are usually held
behind closed doors, often inside prisons, with lawyers and observers being
excluded from the proceedings. Furthermore there is no right to appeal.
During the same interview Gholamhossein Rahbarpour is reported to
have stated that there is sufficient and compelling evidence that the 13
Iranian Jews accused of espionage in Iran are guilty of the charges against
them. Amnesty International is alarmed at such a public presumption of
guilt before trial proceedings have even begun and fears that this trial
may also be conducted in secrecy and result in death sentences for the
Amnesty International has welcomed recent comments by the new Head
of the Judiciary in Iran, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahrudi, in which
he has stressed the need for substantial reform of the Judiciary. The
organization has also welcomed a recent speech made by His Excellency Hojjatoleslam
val Moslemin Sayed Mohammad Khatami, President of the Islamic Republic
of Iran, in which he is reported to have denounced the use of torture and
called for the fundamental rights of all prisoners to be respected.
"Such statements are empty unless accompanied by action. It
is now time for the Iranian authorities to take steps towards implementing
the promised reforms in order to bring the country's legislation in line
with minimum standards for fair trial laid down in article 14 of the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a State Party."