There is little reason to believe that the latest spate of executions is a singular event that will not extend into coming days. Indeed, a number of prisoners were already slated for execution at the time that the latest figures were reported by the NCRI. These include one Kurdish man who was 17 years old at the time of his arrest and charge, and was thus made the subject of an Amnesty International call to action last week.
The human rights group has now been joined by two UN human rights experts. Ahmad Shaheed, the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, and Christof Heyns, the special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions issued a joint statement on the Naseem case on Wednesday, noting that “the execution of juvenile offenders is clearly prohibited by international human rights law.”
Opponents of Naseem’s execution have pointed out that then-teenager was denied access to a lawyer while being held for 97 days in an attempt to elicit a confession to charges of affiliation with armed opponents of the regime. Amnesty International shared a letter written by Naseem in which he detailed some of the harsh treatment and inhumane conditions he had been subjected to over the course of his incarceration.
Together with Naseem, five other prisoners were transferred to solitary confinement in Uromiyeh’s central prison on Wednesday, stoking concerns that these people would also be executed en masse, on similarly questionable and politically motivated charges.
The authorities’ plans for them may not have even been known to the prisoners themselves, as secrecy and deliberate deception are common aspects of the Iranian prison system. Political prisoners are often moved in and out of solitary confinement in order to repeatedly convince them that their executions are imminent.
And such mistreatment is also familiar to non-death row inmates, as has been repeatedly emphasized in international media coverage of such cases as that of Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian. On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that much like Naseem, Rezaian has been systematically denied legal representation during his seven months of imprisonment, during which the charges against him have never been made public. Rezaian’s family reports that they have arranged for a particular attorney to represent him, but that attorney has been barred access to Rezaian in prison.
The Rezaian case was cited by NPR in a report on Wednesday’s Morning Edition on the topic of Iran’s push for new international terrorism. In it, Steve Inskeep noted that while the streets of Tehran appear safe from day to day, sometimes outsiders do disappear. The report also detailed suspicions about government monitoring when interviewees spoke candidly, thus leading Inskeep further in the direction of concluding that Iran’s internal policies and repressive atmosphere spell trouble for the success of its efforts to profit from a new relationship with the international community.
Meanwhile, in lieu of reform, high-ranking Iranian officials are attempting to promote Iran by simply denying the reality of the situation. Case in point, CNS News reported on Wednesday that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made the preposterous claim that in the 36 year history of the Islamic Republic, none of its Muslim residents have ever committed offenses against non-Muslims.
Members of religious minorities comprise a significant portion of the nation’s population of political prisoners. And these minorities, including Christians and Baha’is, are subject to widespread government repression in everyday life as well, with Christian worship sessions being frequently raided and Baha’is being barred from access to education and jobs.