The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) has condemned Iran’s continued use of sodomy laws to justify executions and arbitrary arrests of gay and lesbian people.
Despite a widely publicised outcry two years ago when Iranian authorities executed two young men in the north-eastern city of Mashhed, the government continues to target, arrest, prosecute, and execute individuals under its sodomy law, said the organisation.
IGLHRC, on Wednesday, condemned what it said was Iran’s violations of human rights law and asked that human rights groups around the world work to support those targeted by the government.
The Iranian crackdown on gays and lesbians first came to prominence two years ago when two teenage boys, Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, were hanged in public for their alleged involvement in sodomy and rape.
Both teenagers were juveniles at the time of the offence, and one was believed to have been a juvenile at the time of his execution. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, of which Iran is a signatory, forbids the execution of juveniles.
Despite public responses from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and human rights groups, IGLHRC said that the Iranian government has continued to arrest, prosecute, and even execute people on sodomy charges. The organisation claims a litany of crimes against LGBT people by Iran:
Just weeks after the execution of Asgari and Marhoni, two other young men in the northern city of Gorgan were executed for allegedly engaging in same-sex sexual conduct in violation of Iran’s sodomy law. On November 16, 2006, the Iran’s State-run news agency (IRNA) published a story about the public execution of man convicted of sodomy in the western city of Kermanshah.
In May 2007, the Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO) was the first to report that police forces in the city of Esfahan had raided a birthday party and arrested more than 80 people. The police apparently suspected that the attendees were gay and were possibly engaged in sodomy, though nor proof of either has been established.
Later, police unconditionally released most of those arrested, but required substantial bail for 17 of the arrestees. A judge told the families of those set free on bail that they would be tried on sodomy charges. Based on IRQO’s reports and IGLHRC’s investigation, some of the detainees were severely tortured while in custody.
The Iranian media regularly publishes stories about the execution of alleged criminals on sodomy-related crimes. Just a week ago the spokesperson for the Iranian Judiciary announced that in the next few days some 20 criminals will be hanged in Tehran on a variety of charges, including sodomy.
IGLHRC said that it has worked with IRQO to find refuge for a number of gay Iranians forced to leave their country and who have applied for refugee status, many of whom faced arbitrary arrests, police brutality and even lashings for being gay.
“Executions, in and of themselves, constitute cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment under international law, particularly in the context of consensual sexual conduct,” said Paula Ettelbrick, executive director of IGLHRC.
“But the added problem in these cases is that Iran seems to be arbitrarily targeting individuals perceived to be gay for these forms of heinous abuse. The systematic use of torture, forced confessions, and the inhumane treatment of detainees discredits Iran’s criminal and judicial systems,” she said
IGLHRC added that the refusal of the Iranian authorities to allow independent investigation to examine the human rights situation in Iran makes it impossible for it and other human rights organisations to verify many of the charges against alleged perpetrator and to monitor their access to fair trials.
Iranian criminal law continues to refer to “sodomy” as a serious crime, punishable by death. This violates international treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Iran ratified in 1976. Articles 2 and 26 of the ICCPR affirm the equality of all people before the law and the right to freedom from discrimination, while article 17 of the Covenant reiterates freedom from arbitrary interference with privacy. The United Nations Human Rights Committee, which monitors states’ compliance with the ICCPR, determined in 1994 that sodomy laws violate international human rights.
IGLHRC has called upon human rights defenders to “join the efforts by Iranian LGBT communities to support Iranians who are targeted for persecution because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity.”