Iran Public Execution Outrages Human Rights Groups
A disturbing video of the public execution of three men in Iran has sparked anger among human rights activists.
The graphic video, released by Amnesty International on Thursday, showed guards standing on top of buses draping ropes around necks of three convicts sentenced to death by hanging after being convicted of rape. The men were later hanged from an overhead bridge after the vehicles drove away.
The executions, which took place on 19 July in the western city of Kermanshah, home to Iran’s Kurd minority, attracted significant crowds, including children. Some of the crowds appear to be filming hangings by mobile phones.
The video, which was supplied to Amnesty by an Iranian human rights activist, Fazel Hawramy from kurdishblogger.com, highlights the use of public executions, in which officials publicly hang convicts from a large crane or a high place in front of crowds.
“What is so alarming about this video is the apparent normality of the event. Thousands of people are watching as if it were a football match. People are shouting and cheering. But what is most shocking is the participation of children in this barbaric ‘spectacle’,” Hawramy said.
The release of the video follows human rights groups’ alarm over the sharp escalation in capital punishment in Iran.
Activists said two weeks ago that Iran has executed an average of almost two people a day in the first six months of this year. Iran insists the executions are related to serious crimes such as drug-trafficking although at least two political activists have been identified among those hanged in the first half of 2011.
Amnesty said Iranian authorities have acknowledged public executions of at least 28 people so far this year.
Speaking to the Guardian by phone from Kermanshah, the Iranian who filmed Amnesty’s video said: “I was there, the executions took place at the centre of the city in Azadi Square at 10 in the morning when people were busy with their businesses or shopping.
“Authorities didn’t have any consideration for innocent children who were accompanying their parents and suddenly watched an execution which I would guess would be carved in their mind for ever.”
Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa deputy director, said: “Not only those executed, but all those who watch public executions, including, children, are brutalised and degraded by the experience. These public displays of killing perpetuate a culture of acceptance of violence and bloodlust, rather than a belief in justice.”
She added: “It is deeply disturbing that despite a moratorium on public executions ordered in 2008, the Iranian authorities are once again resorting to this inhuman practice.”
Amnesty said Kermanshah’s executions follow “several widely publicised gang rapes of women this year in Iran. In some cases, officials blamed the victims for failing to adhere to the official code on dress or gender segregation.”
In criticism to Iran’s use of capital punishment as a solution to the country’s rape issue, Hadj Sahraoui said: “Executions after speedy, unfair trials are no solution to the extremely serious problem of rape in Iran, which feeds on the acceptance of violence against women at all levels of society.
“The Iranian authorities should be aiming to combat this culture of violence rather than perpetuate it through these public displays of brutality.”
Rebin Rahmani of HRANA, a human rights website, said 450 people in Kermanshah prison, convicted of charges such as rape or drug-trafficking, have been handed down death sentences and are currently awaiting execution.