UN condemns Iranian executions amid fears of more to come

Appointment of hardline new police commander interpreted as sign of mixed messages from Iran’s regime

UN commissioner for human rights Volker Türk has condemned Iranian executions of protesters following the hanging of four young men involved in four months of nationwide unrest. As another three men await imminent execution having been convicted of killing three security men during demonstrations, Mr Türk warned against more “state-sanctioned killing”.

At least 17 people have been sentenced to death and 100 convicted of capital crimes in connection with the anti-regime protests, despite widespread international condemnation.

Mr Türk said recent death sentences – imposed for “waging war against God” and “corruption on earth” – did not adhere to international human rights law on capital punishment. Sentences have been delivered after brief trials and the accused did not have defence lawyers.

He accused the authorities of using the “weaponisation of criminal procedures to punish people for exercising their basic rights”, adding that the government “would better serve its interests and those of its people by listening to their grievances”.


Mr Türk also urged the implementation of reforms “to ensure respect for diversity of opinion and assembly and the full respect and protection of the rights of women in all areas of life”.

Women-led protests erupted in mid-September after 23-year old Mahsa Amini died in morality police custody after being detained for “bad hijab”, failing to cover her hair fully. The US-based Human Rights Activists news agency reports that 519 protesters have been killed and more than 19,200, including 687 students, arrested in the crackdown that has followed.

The BBC has quoted a letter by Iranian activist Sepideh Qolian, who received a five-year sentence in 2018 for supporting a strike. She wrote that Evin prison’s “culture wing”, where she is studying law, has become a “‘torture and interrogation wing”. While in this building taking exams, she has, she says, witnessed young detainees being interrogated and forced into signing confessions.

Tehran seems to be sending mixed messages about hijab observance. Britain-based Amwaj media has reported that the morality police appear to have ceased patrols since the protests began. On January 4th, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said while adherence to hijab remained Islamic law, “those who do not fully observe the hijab should not be accused of irreligion or being counter-revolutionary”.

However, Amwaj said his appointment of hardline lawman Ahmad Reza Radan as Iran’s national police commander could contradict this line. While serving as Tehran chief and deputy Iran head, Gen Radan has strictly enforced mandatory hijab in Tehran and nationally, and crushed mass demonstrations against the contested 2009 presidential election. He has been blacklisted by the EU and sanctioned by the US for human rights abuses.

In response to The Irish Times’ request for comment on the UN accusations, Iran’s foreign ministry media office has said it was reviewing the request but “only emails about a customer service issue are guaranteed a reply”.

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen contributes news from and analysis of the Middle East to The Irish Times