The Terror of Tehran

POST WRITTEN BY: Frank Noriega (J.D. ’15), Pace Law School

Saturday, November 1, 2014 is dark day for human rights activists everywhere. At dawn, Reyhaneh Jabbari, a 26 year old Iranian woman, was executed by hanging in Tehran despite a public outcry from around the world. This outcry included statements from both Amnesty International and the United Nations condemning the execution. She was convicted of killing a man, a man she claimed to have stabbed in self-defense when he attempted to rape her. The United Nations and the European Union questioned this conviction and believed that Reyhaneh Jabbari should have been retried. She had confessed to the crime only after being intensely pressured and threatened by Iranian prosecutors. She had spent the prior 7 years in prison awaiting her execution.

According to Amnesty International’s 2013 report on Death Sentences and Executions, there were 778 executions reported worldwide in 2013. Iran carried out at least 369 executions in 2013, nearly half of all reported executions. By comparison, the United States, a country roughly four times larger in population, executed 80 people in 2013. Shockingly, it is estimated that the total number of executions in Iran for 2014 will far exceed that of 2013. A UN report stated that at least 852 executions have been carried out in Iran between June 2013 and June 2014. The report also noted that some of these executions were carried out on people who had committed crimes as minors under the age of 18. Reyhaneh Jabbari, although not a minor when she was arrested in 2007, was sentenced to death at the age of 18.

These figures represent only the publicly reported executions. Many executions are carried out in secrecy, in which the government denies the accused a fair trial, a trial meeting minimal standards of due process. Even Reyhaneh Jabbari was held for over two months without counsel or being permitted to communicate with her family. If such a gross disregard of human life can be committed by Iran in the public spotlight, imagine what else is going on.

As if this atrocity act was not despicable enough, Mohammad Javad Larijani, chief of human rights in Iran’s government, stated to the UN Human Rights Council that Western media was to blame for her execution. In Iran, it is up to the victim’s family to pardon the death sentence. Because the media accused Reyhaneh Jabbari’s assailant of rape, to pardon the accused would bring shame to the family.

A system that holds the value of human life lower than the pride of a family is horrendous. Iran must take the decision as to who lives or dies out of the hands of the emotionally reactive family of the deceased and put in back on the scales of justice. Further laws should be enacted to limit if not abolish the use of the death penalty. It is atrocious that a county that contains 1% of the world’s population is responsible for nearly half of the reported executions worldwide. The world community will not stand for this, as is apparent from the public outcry following this recent execution.

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