State Injustice: Unfair trials in the Middle East & North Africa:
MDE 01/003/1998 01/03/1998
AI Index: MDE 01/03/98
The right to a fair trial is a basic human right. The international community
has developed a wide range of standards to ensure fair trials -- to protect
people's rights from the moment they are arrested, while they are in pre-trial
detention, when they are being tried, and right through to their final appeal.
Breaches of these standards are a major concern for Amnesty International
around the world because they represent serious violations of human rights in
and of themselves, and because they contribute to a wide range of other human
rights violations, including the imprisonment of prisoners of conscience,
torture and the use of judicial punishments that amount to torture or to
cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.
As part of the Middle East and North Africa regional campaign for fair trials,
Amnesty International has produced a report, State Injustice: Unfair trials
in the Middle East and North Africa (AI Index: MDE 01/02/98). This gives
details of international standards that safeguard and protect human rights.
It also documents examples of the violations of these standards which occur
in the Middle East and North Africa.
Amnesty International is campaigning on behalf of those who have been tried
unfairly in the Middle East and North Africa. JOIN OUR CAMPAIGN.
These appeal cases present the human face and suffering behind unfair trials.
YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE : WRITE TO THE AUTHORITIES NOW AND SHOW THAT
Please take the opportunity presented by the 50th anniversary of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1998 to urge the governments of the
region to ratify and implement all relevant international treaties which
guarantee clear safeguards for fair trial.
WHERE YOUR RELIGIOUS BELIEFS CAN GET YOU A DEATH SENTENCE
Musa Talibi was arrested, tried and sentenced to death apparently because of
his religious beliefs. He is a prisoner of conscience whose execution may
happen at any time.
Musa Talibi is a Baha'i, a religious minority that is not recognized in Iran,
and has been a leader of the community there. He was detained in June 1994
in Esfahan and in October that year he was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment
on charges of acting against the internal security of the Islamic Republic of
Iran and "attracting individuals to the misguided sect of Baha'ism, including
two [nieces]". This sentence was later confirmed. Following an appeal, he was
retried in February 1995 and his prison sentence was reportedly reduced to 18
months from the date of his arrest. In September 1997 he was reported to have
been moved to Evin Prison.
The prosecution reportedly objected to the lighter sentence, apparently on
the grounds that Musa Talibi was an apostate and that this had not been taken
into consideration during the appeal. This apparently related to the fact
that Musa Talibi had stated during an earlier detention in 1981 to 1982 that
he had converted to Islam, but since his release had continued to practice
the Baha'i faith. At a new trial in July 1996, Musa Talibi was sentenced to
death. His lawyer appealed, but was informed verbally that the death sentence
had been confirmed. Although reports indicated that Musa Talibi had been
convicted of apostasy, the Iranian news agency IRNA stated in February
1997 that he had been convicted of espionage. However, reports suggest
that the sole charge on which the verdict that led to his death sentence
is based is apostasy. It appears that Musa Talibi is being held under
the threat of execution solely for his religious views.
Apostasy is not a crime under the Iranian Penal Code, although people who
convert to Islam from other religions and then reconvert can face trial and
execution under non-codified Islamic law. Men born Muslims who convert to
another faith may also face execution: women face life imprisonment. The
Iranian authorities deny that Baha'is follow any recognized religion, and
treat them with hostility and suspicion, often accusing them without
foundation of espionage. Many have been executed and others have suffered
systematic harassment and persecution.
Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
(ICCPR), to which Iran is a state party, proclaims the right to hold or
adopt the religion of one's choice. The Human Rights Committee, which
interprets and monitors implementation of the ICCPR, has stated that this
article includes the right to replace one's current religion with another,
and bars coercion that would impair this right, including the threat of
physical force or penal sanctions.
The detention of prisoners of conscience is facilitated in Iran by the
grossly unfair trials faced by those viewed as opponents of the government.
The trials, usually held before Islamic Revolutionary Courts, are often
held in secret. Many defendants say they were tortured to force them to
confess and often say that at no stage in the legal proceedings were they
allowed contact with lawyers. In many cases, defendants are charged with
espionage or with vaguely-worded charges such as being "at enmity with God"
or "corrupt on earth", which often appear to be accusations designed solely
to silence critics of the government.
The death sentence against Musa Talibi should be lifted and he should be
immediately and unconditionally released.
Serious human rights violations have continued to take place in Iran against
many people, including lawyers, writers, journalists, a broad range of
political opposition from members of left-wing groups to monarchists, as
well as ethnic and religious minorities. There has also been a pattern of
human rights violations against Shi'a religious leaders and their followers
opposed to the government, particularly since 1995. In recent years, a
number of people, both inside and outside the country, have been killed in
circumstances suggesting that they may have been extrajudicially executed
by agents of the Iranian Government. Critics of the government face
imprisonment after unfair trial before special courts, as well as torture
and execution. Political prisoners may be held without charge or trial in
circumstances that are shrouded in secrecy. This secrecy is exacerbated by
the refusal of the Iranian authorities to allow independent human rights
monitors unhindered access to the country. Amnesty International has not
been permitted to visit Iran for fact-finding, trial observation or
government talks since 1979.
More than 200 Baha'is in Iran have been executed, most during the 1980s,
apparently because of their religious beliefs.
Others currently on death row on account of their religious beliefs or
activities are Dhabihullah Mahrami, Kayvan Khalajabadi and Bihnam Mithaqi.
Please write polite letters in English, French or your own
* Urge the authorities to lift the death sentence against Musa Talibi.
* Call on the authorities to release Musa Talibi immediately and
unconditionally as he is a prisoner of conscience.
* Ask the authorities to ensure that no one in the future is punished solely
for the peaceful expression of their religious beliefs, including by
reviewing relevant legislation.
Send your communications to:
His Excellency Ayatollah Sayed 'Ali Khamenei,
Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran,
c/o The Presidency,
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran.
Salutation: Your Excellency
His Excellency Hojjatoleslam val Moslemin Sayed Mohammad Khatami,
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran.
Salutation: Your Excellency
Please send a copy of your letters to the diplomatic representative of
Iran in your country.
©Copyright 1998, Amnesty International