UK Govt Shares eFiles on Executions of Iranian
Gays, Women, Others
Less than a week ago I filed a request with the UK government for copies of their papers on executions of gays, which were the basis for a story in the Times of London. I am very pleased to share with you all of what was provided to me today, including the paper's original request for documents, in this unusually long blog entry.
Reading the documents gave me a sense of how at least one part of the British government monitors the death penalty in Iran, how and why it is meted out, and also raises important human rights issues about the executions with the Iranians.
We need more interest and pressure like this from governments about executions in Iran and the plight of its gay population, because it can lead to more respect for the human rights protections of gay Iranians and all Iranians.
19 November 2007
Dear Mr Petrelis
I am writing to confirm that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has now completed its search for the information which you requested on 14 November 2007.
I can confirm that the FCO does hold information relevant to your request. A copy of the information is enclosed.
In keeping with the spirit and effect of the Freedom of Information Act, all information is assumed to be releasable to the public unless exempt. The information supplied to you may now be published on our website together with any related information that will provide a key to its wider context.
If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your request and wish to make a complaint or request a review of our decision, you should write to me within 40 working days.
If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint, you may apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. Generally, the Information Commissioner cannot make a decision unless you have exhausted the complaints procedure provided by the FCO. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.
Information Rights Team
From: Kennedy, Dominic [email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, September 18, 2007 12:31 PM
Subject: The Times/Iran death penalty
Application under the Freedom of Information Act
Please would you let me know in writing if you hold information of the following description:
Since 2005, information concerning the death penalty being applied in Iran for homosexuality, adultery and/or sex outside of marriage.
I would like a copy of the information.
If any part of the information requested is covered by one or more of the absolute exemptions in the Act please treat this request as a request for that part of the information which is not covered by the absolute exemption.
If you need further details in order to identify the information requested or a fee is payable please let me know as soon as possible.
If you are of the view that there may be further information of the kind requested but it is held by another public authority please let me know as soon as possible. Please continue with this application as quickly as possible.
I believe that the information requested is required in the public interest for the following reasons:
1. To uphold public confidence that the Government monitors human rights abuses abroad;
2. To provide assurance that the Government applies pressure to other countries to improve their records on human rights and individual freedom;
3. To ensure that public funds are spent correctly protecting human rights abroad.
1 Pennington Street
London E98 1TA-
Digest of Information Released in Response to Dominic Kennedy’s Freedom of Information Act Request (0773-07)
1) Extract of eGram from Tehran to Middle East and North Africa Directorate of FCO, dated 21 April 2005:
‘We have been unable to confirm reports that two men have been sentenced to death for homosexual activities. The case is alleged to have come to light after the wife of one of the men lodged a complaint, having discovered a videotape of the two men which her husband had made in order to blackmail his partner if he stopped paying him for sex.’
2) Extract of EU telegram from Portugal to Member States, dated 19 May 2005:
‘We also received similar information, via our local Embassy, regarding the case of Fatemeh, a woman sentenced to stoning for adultery and murder of her lover. Even though the veracity of this information is not yet confirmed, it gives rises to serious concerns on the possible ending of the moratorium on stoning, by Iranian authorities. Thus, Portugal would like to ask the Presidency to try to confirm the content of the sentence and, if it is the case, to promote an urgent demarche.’
3) Extracts from email correspondence between Embassy officials in Tehran about two boys suspected of being executed for homosexuality, dated 25 July-11 August 2005:
From: British Embassy Official, To: Officials of various Embassies, 25 July 2005
‘We believe Mahmoud Asqari was under 18 when hanged in public in the city of Mashad. This has been confirmed by Mr. Razzazadeh, Defence Lawyer for Mahmoud Asqari. Asqari was arrested at the age of sixteen and a half, according to the lawyer and spent some 14 months in jail. The lawyer had two more avenues of appeal open to him through 'Discernment Branches' of the Supreme Court' but the sentence was carried out before he could take these forward. It is our understanding that the other young man also hanged alongside Mahmoud was above 18. We believe his name to be Ayad Marhouni. There are three other boys wanted in connection with the crime and one of them, according to Razzazadeh, is also under 18.
‘The alleged crime was that the gang abducted and raped a 13-year-old boy in 2004. The court says they were hooligans who were prosecuted and tried for other offences as well, such as theft and drinking alcohol. In order to be convicted of rape (unless there are sufficient witnesses) is for the perpetrator to confess four times. Apparently Mahmoud Asqari had done so.
‘Yesterday it was reported in the press that head of Mashad Justice Department, Hassan Shariati had said the two were above eighteen and even the younger was born in 1987. Even if this is true, Mahmoud Asqari was under 18 at the time of commitment of the crime. According to Shariati, the other young man (Ayad Marhouni) was 20 at the time of the execution.
‘Our source said that since the ban on capital punishment for anyone committing a crime under 18 had not been in the form of a circular, provincial courts and judges were unaware of it and would like the international community to put pressure on the Judiciary to send out guidance in the form of a circular or order by Judiciary Chief, Ayatollah Shahroudi.’
From: British Embassy Official, To: NZ Official, Dutch Official, 11 August 2005
‘As Presidency of the EU we have sent in a Note Verbale, raised with Rahimpour
(DG Western Europe, MFA) and are still waiting for a call on Alaie (Acting head of human rights and women's affairs dept of the MFA). So response to talk of.
‘I know some Embassies have also acted bilaterally. The Dutch also had parliamentary interest - they may be able to tell you what the response to their approach was’
From: Dutch Embassy Official, To: British Embassy Official, NZ Official, 11 August
Our response to the parliamentary questions was as follows: there seems no indication that they were executed because of their homosexuality (as indeed no known cases of this occurring as far as we know), but because of certain crimes committed. EU protested this case with the Iranian authorities because of our concern with the legal procedures and especially the ages of the two young man. As far as we know they were juveniles when committing the crime, and at least one was certainly a juvenile when executed. This is against the assurances the Iranaut. gave us, etc./ moratorium, etc. Also: not all legal means to avoid the execution had been exhausted.’
4) Extract of EU telegram from the Netherlands to Member States, dated 29 July 2005:
‘Last but not least the Netherlands would like to suggest that the opportunity of the demarche be used to inquire explicitly whether homosexuality can in itself be a reason for execution. The Netherlands so far has no indication that that is the case, but gay rights groups argue that the two juveniles in Mashhad were executed just because of their homosexuality.’
5) Extract of EU telegram from the EU Commission to Member States, dated 18 August 2005:
‘The Commission wishes to draw to the attention of the Presidency and Member States to the reported sentencing to death of two individuals – Farbod Mostaar and Ahmad Chooka – in the city of Arak, on the grounds that they are homosexuals. The death sentence will likely be carried out on 27th August.
‘The Commission received information regarding the cases from the International Committee against Execution, but has been unable to secure corroboration from other sources. In light of the strong concerns which this information provokes, the Commission suggests that HOMs [Heads of Mission] in Tehran be requested to investigate the claims as a matter of urgency, with a view to possible further EU action.’
6) Extract of EU telegram from the UK to Member States, dated 22 August 2005, reporting an EU Presidency call on the Director of the Human Rights and Women’s Affairs Department at the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 22 August 2005:
[this covers issues raised in points 4 and 5 above]
‘Given the imminent reported date of execution, the Presidency took the opportunity of the call on Mr Alaie to raise concerns about reports of a death sentence being handed down for consensual homosexual sex in Arak. The Presidency had noted the Arak General and Revolutionary Prosecutor’s statement last week on a case with a similar name where the crime was kidnap and rape not consensual sex. The European Union was against the use of the death penalty for all cases but urged that in line with Iran’s international commitments it would only be used for the most serious of crimes.’
7) Extract of EU telegram from the UK to Member States, dated 06 September 2005:
‘The Presidency is also grateful to the Netherlands for further information that it was able to obtain regarding the case of Ahmad Chooka. Partners will recall that this case gained widespread coverage in the European press as a result of reports that Mr Chooka was being executed for being homosexual. According to a source in the Iranian judiciary, Mr Chooka, aged 25, and another individual, kidnapped a student who was subsequently knifed and raped before being released. Mr Chooka was charged with armed violence, kidnap, rape, public disorder and other more minor crimes. The Presidency understands that it was the charges of rape and kidnap that led to the death sentence being handed down. This case has yet to be considered by the Supreme Court.’
8) Extracts from EU telegram from the UK to Member States, dated 25 October 2005, reporting an EU Presidency call on the Head of the Human Rights Department at the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 23 October 2005:
‘The Presidency sought clarification on the cases of four young men, aged between 17 and 23, who were hanged in the city of Bandar Abbas on 23 August. The Presidency also raised the case of Ayad Marhouni, who was executed in Mashad on 19 July, despite possibly being under the age of 18 at the time of his crime and while legal avenues of appeal were still open to him.
‘Mr Emadi said the moratorium was in place. But he said the Head of the Judiciary could not instruct judges to comply with it until new legislation is adopted. He would ask for clarification on all cases raised. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was already in touch with the judiciary on the cases of Sina and Mostafa. He also said that Ayad Marhouni was not a juvenile at the time of the crime and that he was executed for rape not for his sexual orientation as some media had reported.’
‘The EU also raised the case of Soghra, in the Varamin district south of Tehran. The Presidency believed Soghra had been given a sentence of stoning by Bench 71 of the Provincial Criminal Court for adultery and being an accomplice in the murder of her husband. The Presidency urged Iran to abide by commitments made in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and asked for clarification on this case and on the status of the moratorium on stoning. On behalf of the EU, the Presidency urged Iran to abolish execution by stoning. Mr Emadi said that there was also a moratorium on stoning. He was not aware of this case but would be willing to look into it, and asked whether the Presidency could supply further details.’
9) Extract from the record of a meeting between Embassy officials and a human rights lawyer ‘X’ in Tehran, dated 26 October 2005:
‘X was concerned about two cases in particular. The first is a juvenile who is being tried for homosexuality. It is not clear if he is facing a death sentence but we hope the get the verdict and more details soon.’ [N.B. no name was given for the individual]
10) Extract of EU telegram from Spain to Member States, dated 25 November 2005:
‘Spain would like to bring partners’ attention to the execution of two men in the Iranian city of Gorgan on November 13th. These men were hanged in a public square after being found guilty of homosexual relationship. Spain proposes that the Presidency issue a public statement condemning these executions, in accordance with the EU Guidelines on Death Penalty. The content of this statement could be to reiterate the EU position against the death penalty, express concern about the provisions of Iranian legislation that consider homosexuality a capital crime.’
11) Extract from EU telegram from the UK to Member States, dated 2 December 2005:
‘Partners will be aware of recent Western media reports alleging the execution of homosexuals. In these cases, it has not been entirely clear whether the individuals are homosexual, and if they are, whether they have been executed for offences relating solely to their homosexuality. In most instances, the offence for which the death penalty has been imposed is described in the Iranian media as rape or kidnap. But Western gay rights groups and NGOs have expressed concern that the 'real offence' is homosexuality, and that the number of such cases is rising. The Presidency proposes that the EU should seek information and pass on these groups' concern. On 13 November, two Iranian men convicted of sodomy, rape and kidnapping were hanged in public in Gorgan in Golestan province according to Keyhan newspaper. The two men were named Mokhtar N (aged 24) and Ali A (aged 25). Human Rights Watch has claimed that the crime in this case was "lavat" or sexual acts between men. Other recent cases have included two men being sentenced to death in March 2005 following the discovery of a video of them engaged in sexual acts; and the execution of Mahmoud Asqari and Ayad Marhouni in Mashad in July 2005 for kidnap and rape of a thirteen year old boy.’
12) Extract from EU telegram from the UK to Member States, dated 5 December 2005:
‘When enquiries have been made about reports of the execution of homosexuals, the Iranian authorities noted that other charges such as kidnap or rape had lead to the death sentence being handed down. Homosexuals generally do not face persecution.’
13) Extract of eGram from Tehran to Middle East and North Africa Directorate of FCO, dated 24 May 2006:
‘In 2004 Leila Mafi was sentenced to death for acts incompatible with chastity after she was sold into prostitution by her mother when she was just 8 years old and then later raped by her father and brother. Leila’s case received international media attention and a prominent women’s rights lawyer took up her case. The sentence was eventually converted to imprisonment and 199 lashes.’
‘Iran confirmed a moratorium on the implementation of stoning sentences to the EU during the first round of the EU-Iran Human Rights Dialogue. However sentences of stoning continue to be handed down, especially for cases of adultery. Last year Zhila Izadi, aged only 13, was sentenced to death by stoning after she became pregnant with her brother’s child. It is not clear if she had consented to sex. Both Zhila and her brother remain in the custody of the State Welfare Organisation.’
‘In 2004 the judge who prosecuted and convicted 16 year old Atafeh Rajabi himself placed the noose around her neck after finding her guilty of ‘acts incompatible with chastity’.’
14) Extracts from Iran Co-ordination Group filenote entitled ‘Iran Human Rights Cases’ dated 25 August 2006:
‘Ashraf Kalhouri, was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery. Her sentence has now been commuted. This was possibly due to international pressure and EU action when the case was raised with the Judiciary. They promised to ensure the stoning moratorium was upheld. It is likely that Kalhouri will remain on death row indefinitely.’
‘Malek Ghorbany, was also sentenced to death by stoning for adultery.’
‘Atefeh Rajavi, was hanged in 2004 for crimes against chastity. The case recently featured in a BBC programme, which followed the case. The Iranians have yet to respond to the programme.’
15) Extract of email from Iran Co-ordination Group to Human Rights, Democracy and Good Governance Group, dated 16 November 2006:
‘The issue of homosexuality in Iran doesn't come up quite as often as other issues, but our standard line is as follows:
Persecution of homosexuals in Iran?
‘Homosexual activities are illegal in Iran and can carry the death penalty. We are aware of concern that homosexuals are being charged with crimes such as rape and kidnap and then being executed. We continue to monitor the situation carefully, but we are not aware of any individual that has been executed in Iran during the past two years solely on the grounds of their homosexuality. Although homosexuality is illegal in Iran and homosexuals do experience discrimination, we do not believe that they are routinely persecuted.
Last prominent case?
‘Two youths were executed in Mashad, Iran in July 2005, which heightened our concerns. We understand that the alleged offences actually included abduction and rape. One of the youths was under the age of 18 when he was publicly hanged. We raised this case bilaterally with the Iranian Ambassador to London, and the British Embassy also expressed the EU's concern to the Iranian MFA in August 2005. The UK, as Presidency of the EU, issued a public statement of concern on 26 July.’
16) Extract of EU telegram from the UK to Member States, dated 28 February 2006:
‘We have also heard a report that the Supreme Court has upheld a stoning sentence for Leila Qomi, who was convicted of adultery and assisting a man, Panjali, who killed her husband. Ms Qomi wanted to marry Panjali, but when her husband refused to divorce her, Panjali shot him dead. He has been sentenced to 100 lashes as the victim’s relatives have no complaint.’
17) Extract from the record of a meeting between the UK Inter-Parliamentary Union and members of the Iranian Majles on 1 May 2007:
‘Nigel Evans raised the cases of child executions and the executions of homosexuals. Yahavi explained that according to Islam gays and lesbianism were not permitted. He said that if homosexual activity is in private there is no problem, but those in overt activity should be executed [he initially said tortured but changed it to executed]. He argued that homosexuality is against human nature and that humans are here to reproduce. Homosexuals do not reproduce.’
18) Extract of EU telegram from the UK to Member States, dated 6 July 2007:
‘the UK would like to draw partners attention to reports that a woman (name and age not known)was executed in Gorgan, Iran on 18 June. She was sentenced and hanged for the crime of incest, after becoming pregnant by her brother. Her brother was absolved after expressing his remorse. This execution constitutes a contravention of Iran’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which states that the “sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes” and further demonstrates that unequal treatment of men and women in law. Similarly, the application of the death penalty in this case also goes against the EU guidelines on use of the death penalty. The UK recommends that the proposed demarche should also register our strong objection to this execution.’
19) Extract of briefing note for Dr Howells’ meeting with Iranian Ambassador Rasoul Movaheddian on 16 July 2007:
- Shocked and disturbed to hear that Jafar Kiani [ja-FA ki-A-ni] was stoned to death for adultery, despite assurances given to the EU Presidency last month that a moratorium on stoning was still in place and the sentence would not be carried out.
- We condemn this utterly. Stoning is a cruel, inhuman punishment in violation of the most basic human rights principles and Iran’s own freely undertaken international human rights commitments.
- Deeply concerned that Mr Kiani’s partner Ms Mokarrameh Ebrahimi [mok-A-rem-eh eb-ra-HI-mi] is at risk of imminent execution by stoning. Urge Iran to uphold the moratorium on stoning and stop her execution. We remain strongly opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances.
We received reports in June that Jafar Kiani and his partner Mokarremeh Ebrahimi were due to be executed imminently by stoning. They had both been convicted for adultery and had already served 11 years imprisonment. Following international pressure, including EU representations, the executions did not take place on the scheduled date (21 June). The Iranian Foreign Ministry and Judiciary gave assurances that the moratorium on stoning (announced in 2002 by the Head of the Judiciary – Shahroudi) was still in place.
Despite this, on 10 July, an Iranian Judiciary spokesman confirmed that Jafar Kiani had been stoned to death on 5 July. Mr Kiani’s execution violates both the declared moratorium and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is a party. The ICCPR states that “in countries which have not abolished the death penalty, the sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes” and that “no-one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. The stoning violates both these principles.’
20) Extracts from EU telegram from the UK to Member States, dated 16 July 2007:
‘The UK would like to inform partners that, in accordance with the Irish proposal in the COREU under reference, we summoned the Iranian Ambassador on 16 July. The UK condemned Mr Kiani's execution - a violation of both the declared moratorium and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is a party. We reiterated the UK and EU's longstanding opposition to the death penalty in all cases, urged Iran to eliminate this inhumane punishment and to ensure that Mrs Ebrahimi would not be executed.’
‘The Iranian Ambassador stated that the Iranian government remained opposed to execution by stoning and assured that Mrs Ebrahimi's execution by stoning would not be carried out. A Judiciary delegation was currently in the region investigating the execution.’
21) Extract of eGram from Tehran to Middle East and North Africa Directorate of FCO, dated 17 July 2007:
‘On 5 July, Jafar Kiani was stoned to death in Qazvin province for allegedly committing adultery. This was the first confirmed stoning since 2002 (when Iran announced a moratorium). Early indications suggest the local judge ignored an order from Head of the Judiciary Shahroudi blocking the stoning. The Judiciary have announced that it will investigate the judge’s behaviour, though Mohammad Javad Larijani, the head of the Judiciary's human rights committee, stressed on 15 July that 'stoning is based on Islamic
Sharia law and it is not contrary to any of our international obligations'.‘Gender also often plays a role in use of the death penalty. A woman made pregnant by her brother was hanged for incest in Gorgan on 18 June. But her brother was absolved for his penitence.’