Human rights groups the world over have strongly condemned the recent execution of two gay teenagers in northeastern Iran.
"It's entirely unacceptable that people are actually killed because of their sexuality," Kursad Kahramananoglu, head of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), the oldest and only membership-based lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organisation in the world, maintained from Istanbul.
While exact details of the case remained unclear, he vowed if confirmed, ILGA would pursue the matter to the highest level, including the United Nations, noting a rise in homophobia in the world today. Kahramananoglu was not alone in his condemnation.
"Killing teenagers for what they do together is absolutely abhorrent," David Allison, spokesman for the London-based LGBT advocacy group Outrage said. He added that given that Iran was such an old civilisation, it was appalling that they should descend to such barbaric levels - especially against young people.
"To execute people simply because they are gay or have had gay sex just isn't acceptable in the 21st century," he exclaimed. Their comments follow the public hangings of Mahmoud Asgari, 16, and Ayaz Marhoni, 18, on 19 July in Mashad, provincial capital of Iran's northeastern Khorasan province, on charges of homosexuality.
Asgari had been accused of raping a 13-year-old boy, though Outrage believed those allegations were trumped up to undermine public sympathy for the two youths, both of whom maintain they were unaware homosexual acts were punishable by death, an AP news report said on Sunday.
"The judiciary has trampled its own laws," Asgari's lawyer, Rohollah Razez Zadeh, was quoted as saying, explaining that Iranian courts were supposed to commute death sentences handed to children to five years in jail, but the country's Supreme Court allowed the hangings to proceed.
Photo: Iranian Student's News Agency (ISNA)
|Tuesday's public execution of the youths has drawn sharp criticism of Iran's legal system|
Meanwhile on Saturday, Iran's Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi condemned the executions, reaffirming her determination to ban the execution of minors.
"My calls for a law banning execution of under-18s have fallen on deaf ears so far but I will not give up the fight," the AP quoted her as saying, calling the executions a violation of Iran's obligations under the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
Prior to the boys' executions, the teenagers were held in prison for 14 months and severely beaten with 228 lashes. The length of their detention suggests that they committed the so-called offences more than a year earlier, when they were possibly around the age of 16, a statement by Outrage explained.
Citing Iranian human rights campaigners, Outrage claims over 4,000 lesbians and gay men have been executed since the Iranian revolution of 1979. In total, an estimated 100,000 Iranians have been put to death over the last 26 years of clerical rule, including women who had sex outside of marriage and political opponents of the Islamist government.
According to ILGA, Iran is one of at least seven countries today which still retain capital punishment for homosexuality. Others include Mauritania, Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The situation with regard to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is unclear.
In the wake of the hangings, Amnesty International (AI) on Friday called on Tehran to put a final stop to state executions, explaining as a state party to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the CRC, Iran had undertaken not to execute anyone for an offence committed when they were under the age of 18.
For the past four years, the Iranian authorities have been considering legislation that would prohibit the use of the death penalty for offences committed by persons under the age of 18.
Under Article 1210(1) of Iran’s Civil Code, the ages of 15 lunar years for boys and nine lunar years for girls are set out as the age of criminal responsibility, an AI statement said.
In January 2005, following its consideration of Iran's second periodic report on its implementation of the provisions of the CRC, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, the body of independent experts established under this Convention to monitor states parties' compliance with the treaty, urged Iran: "to take the necessary steps to immediately suspend the execution of all death penalties imposed on persons for having committed a crime before the age of 18, to take the appropriate legal measures to convert them to penalties in conformity with the provisions of the Convention and to abolish the death penalty as a sentence imposed on persons for having committed crimes before the age of 18, as required by article 37 of the Convention."