Iranian Death Penalty Upheld One Day After U.N. Criticized Iran for Human Rights Violations

By Patrick Goodenough | November 24, 2009 | 4:22 AM EST

Human rights groups say that the rate of executions in Iran has climbed since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (seen here during a visit to Brazil on Monday, Nov. 23, 2009) came to office in 2005. (AP Photo)

( – A day after the United Nations passed a resolution criticizing Iran for human rights violations and citing the rate of executions, an Iranian appeals court on Saturday upheld the death penalty for the first person sentenced to death in connection with post-election protests.
Rooz, a reformist news organization, said Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani was convicted earlier of the offense known as “moharebeh” – enmity with Allah – for membership in an outlawed organization.
Rooz said Zamani was arrested last March and charged with membership in a monarchist group, and he was in custody during the protests triggered by the disputed June presidential election.
Despite this, however, judiciary officials linked him to the post-election protests, and when the regime put large groups of people on public trial for their alleged role in the protests, Zamani was present, Rooz said.
It was reported earlier that a Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced him to death on October 8.
Just last Wednesday, an Iranian Kurd, Ehsan Fattahian, was executed, having also been sentenced to death for “moharebeh,” in his case in connection with alleged membership in an illegal Kurdish group. At least two other Kurdish men similarly convicted are expected to meet the same fate at any time.
Iran carries out more executions than any other country apart from China, and human rights groups have recorded a discernible increase since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to office in 2005 – from 86 that year to 346 in 2008, according to Amnesty International (AI).
This year, between January 1 and the presidential election on June 12, AI said it recorded at least 196 executions.
After the election, the rate continued to climb. When Ahmadinejad was sworn in for his second term in early August, AI said it had recorded a further 115 executions in the two months since the election. (Iran does not provide official execution statistics.)
On Friday, in a vote reflecting deep political divisions between mostly Western nations on one side and Islamic and developing ones on the other, a U.N. General Assembly committee in New York passed a resolution on the human rights situation in Iran.
The resolution noted in particular abuses that followed the election, as well as an increase in the number of executions since the vote. It urged the government to allow a “credible, impartial and independent investigation into the allegations of post-presidential election human rights violations.”
Iran and its supporters – including Syria (for the Organization of the Islamic Conference), Sudan (for the Non-Aligned Movement), Libya and Venezuela – said they were opposed to resolutions that single out specific countries on human rights matters, calling them politically-motivated. They urged all member states to vote against the measure.
The resolution eventually passed by 74 votes to 48, with 59 countries abstaining. The one OIC member to vote in favor was Saudi Arabia, Iran’s main rival in the region. Several other members of the Islamic bloc, including Jordan, Brunei and Cameroon, abstained.
The resolution will go to the General Assembly plenary for a vote, probably next month, where a similar vote is expected.
Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow