UN calls for halt to executions of two LGBT human rights activists

United Nations judicial experts have demanded Wednesday that Iran immediately halt the executions of two women sentenced to death for their support of LGBT human rights.

Iranian judicial authorities prosecuted human rights defender Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani and Elham Choubdar in August 2022 and on September 1, 2022, respectively, notifying them that they had been convicted and sentenced to death by the Islamic Revolution Court in Urumieh.

Specifically, the two activists have been charged for carrying out “land corruption” and “trafficking” offenses, the UN detailed in a statement.

“We strongly condemn the death sentence of Sedighi-Hamadani and Choubdar, and call on the authorities to suspend their executions and quash their sentences as soon as possible,” the UN experts have requested, assuring that the authorities “must ensure the health and well-being of both women and release them immediately.”

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Iran’s legal system explicitly prohibits homosexuality and same-sex relations are punishable by death under the country’s penal code.

While the court decision and sentencing order are not public, experts have been informed that the charges concerned speeches and actions in support of the Human Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans and other gender diverse (LGBT) people who face discrimination in Iran on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Experts have also received reports detailing that the trafficking charges against the women were related to their efforts to help at-risk individuals leave Iranian territory.

The experts have expressed concern to the Government of Iran that the two women may have been arbitrarily detained, ill-treated and prosecuted on discriminatory grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity, including the criminalization of LGBT persons, whose rights they were defending through peaceful action.

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Sedighi-Hamedani was arrested on October 27, 2021 by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards near the Iranian border with Turkey. Choubdar was arrested on an as yet unknown date somewhat later.

“We urge the Iranian authorities to investigate the alleged ill-treatment of Sedighi-Hamadani during her detention, her enforced disappearance for 53 days and the lack of due process guarantees,” the UN has called on.

“We call on Iran to repeal the death penalty and, at a minimum, reduce the scope of its application to only criminal actions that reach the threshold of the most serious crimes,” they added.

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