GENEVA (5 August 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, today urged the Iranian authorities to immediately commute the death penalty recently handed down to Mohammad Ali Tehari, a well-known author of alternative medical theories practiced in Iran and abroad, and founder of Erfan-e-Halgheh (Inter-Universalism), an arts and culture institute in Tehran which promoted healing concepts.
Mr. Taheri was reportedly sentenced to death on 1 August on charges of ‘Fisad-fil-Arz’ (‘Corruption on Earth’), while he was serving a five year sentence. He was arrested in May 2011 and sentenced to five years in prison for insulting Islamic sanctities.
“It is unacceptable and a clear violation of international law for an individual to be imprisoned and condemned to death for peacefully exercising his rights to freedoms of religion and of expression,” the UN expert stressed. “Mr. Taheri has been handed a death sentence for his spiritual beliefs and teachings.”
The Special Rapporteur noted that the UN opposes the use of death penalty in all circumstances, and recalled that Iran is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights*. “The Covenant protects freedom of religion or belief and provides that countries which have not abolished the death penalty may only impose it for the most serious crimes, that is, those involving intentional killing, and only after a fair trial, among other safeguards,” he explained.
“Mr. Taheri’s actions were peaceful and constitute protected activities under international human rights law,” the human rights expert said.
“The rights protected by international law encompass the right to have and express any belief that one chooses, regardless of whether that expression is through private actions or public teachings,” he stated. Condemning a person to death for expressing their beliefs is unacceptable.”
Mr. Shaheed’s call has been endorsed by the UN Special Rapporteurs on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt; on torture, Juan E. Méndez; on extrajudicial executions, Christof Heyns; on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye; and on human rights defenders, Michel Forst.
Special Rapporteur Shaheed also renewed his call on the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to institute a moratorium on capital punishment and to demonstrate its commitment to fulfilling its obligation to respect and protect the right to life, as well as other fundamental freedoms guaranteed by national and international law.
(*) Check the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/