(Iran) - The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) has learned that the Iranian Chief Justice, Ayatollah Seyed Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi, has nullified the impending death sentence of Mr. Makvan Mouloodzadeh, a 21-year old Iranian citizen found guilty of multiple counts of anal rape (ighab), allegedly committed when he was 13 years old. The Iranian Chief Justice described the death sentence to be in violation of Islamic teachings, the religious decrees of high-ranking Shiite clerics, and the law of the land.
"This is a stunning victory for human rights and a reminder of the power of global protest," said Paula Ettelbrick, IGLHRC's executive director, who on November 5 sent a letter in Persian and English asking that Iranian authorities intervene to halt the execution.
The verdict in Mr. Mouloodzadeh's case was questionable from the outset. Although accusations of rape were later retracted by the alleged victims, the court decided to proceed with the trial. All parties involved in the case told the court that their statements during the investigation were either untruthful or coerced. The investigation was also riddled with procedural irregularities. The death sentence in this case is believed to violate both international law and the Penal Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Following an urgent action alert issued by Amnesty International on 26 October, IGLHRC issued its own action alert on November 5, 2007, which prompted other human rights advocates to similarly object. Activists from around the world responded by sending over 100 emails demanding an immediate halt to Makvan's execution. Other human rights organizations, Human Rights Watch, the Iranian Queer Organization, and the Outrage! acted on the issue as well.
"It is absolutely imperative that we halt the deplorable use of the death penalty to force social conformity," said Ettelbrick. "We hope that Makvan's case and the profound rejection of the death penalty by the Iranian Chief Justice sets the course for the future in Iran."
Gay human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of the UK LGBT rights group, OutRage! said:
"Executing a person for an offence they allegedly committed when they
were a minor, below the age of criminal responsibility, is particularly heinous and barbaric.
"Makwan is the latest victim of Tehran's on-going homophobic campaign of imprisonment, torture, flogging and hanging."
Meanwhile, the case is not yet resolved. After a designated group of judges from the Chief Justice's office formally nullifies the court's decision, the case will be sent to a local court for retrial.
International law strictly prohibits the use of the death penalty against people convicted of crimes committed when they were under the age of 18. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has raised concern about child offenders' criminal responsibility being determined by judges, using subjective and arbitrary criteria such as the attainment of puberty, the age of discernment or the personality of the child. As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Iran has undertaken not to execute child offenders. However, since 1990, Iran has executed at least 24 child offenders, with a further two reportedly put to death on 17 October 2007. At least 78 child offenders are on death row in Iran; at least 15 Afghan child offenders are reportedly under sentence of death.
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