United Nations human rights experts are calling on Iran to halt the approaching execution of Kurdish prisoner Heidar Ghorbani and repeal his death sentence, according to a statement.
“We are seriously concerned that Mr. Ghorbani’s eventual confession was forced as a result of torture and ill-treatment,” the experts said in the statement published on Friday, calling for a retrial in accordance to international law.
Ghorbani, 48, is accused of being involved in the killing of three men affiliated with Iran’s Basij paramilitary forces. Arrested in October 2016, he was initially forcibly disappeared for three months and reportedly tortured and held in solitary confinement.
The accused was convicted of armed rebellion against the state and sentenced to death in January 2020 by a court in Iran’s Kurdistan province, despite the court admitting that Ghobani was never armed, according to the statement.
Iran is one of the biggest death penalty enforcers in the world, with its number of death sentences branded “troubling” by UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran Javaid Rehman in a March statement.
“It is regrettable that the Government continues to issue death sentences,” the rights experts added. “This is particularly concerning when the crimes do not meet the threshold of the ‘most serious crimes’ as required by international law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a State party.”
Tens of thousands of political prisoners are jailed in Iran over various charges including advocating for democracy and promoting the rights of women, workers, and ethnic minorities.
Ethnic minority groups including Kurds and Azeris are disproportionately detained and more harshly sentenced for acts of political dissidence, according to a July 2019 report from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran.
According to data collected by Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), more than 230 people were executed in 2020. The report added that more than 72% of executions were done in secret and not reported by the government.
International monitors are concerned that human rights could further erode in Iran under President Ebrahim Raisi who played a role in a 1988 prison massacre.