Civil status Married
Rank/Position Bishop Haik Hovsepian-Mehr was the Superindentent of the Assemblies of God Churches and Chairman of the Council of Protestant Ministers n Iran.
Date of execution January 20, 1994
Location Tehran, Iran
Mode of execution unspecified extrajudicial execution
Charges Unknown charge
About this Case
The information about the extra-judicial killing of Mr. Hovsepian-Mehr is drawn from a 1994 United Nations' report on human rights in Iran and a 1995 report by Amnesty International.
On February 17, 1994, the United Nations Special Representative addressed the following letter to the Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations Office in Geneva: "... I should like to bring to your attention that I have received reports that Bishop Haik Hovsepian Mehr, Chairman of the Council of Protestant Ministers and Secretary-General of the Assembly of God Churches in the Islamic Republic of Iran, was recently assassinated in Tehran. On January 11, 1994, Bishop Haik Hovsepian-Mehr had asked me to travel to the Islamic Republic of Iran to meet with Protestant and Evangelical ministers and government officials to discuss human rights matters and the situation of religious minorities. He reportedly met with the Ministry of Islamic Guidance and presented a request that the rights of the Christian minority be protected. In response, the Ministry reportedly required all Christian denominations to sign a declaration stating that they enjoyed full constitutional rights as Christians in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Bishop Haik Hovsepian-Mehr refused to sign on behalf of his denomination."
According to Amnesty International, "Over the past 18 months (preceding May 1995) four prominent leaders of religious minority groups--three Christians and a Sunni Muslim--were found dead in suspicious circumstances. They were all known to be critics of government policies."
Arrest and detention
Bishop Hovsepian-Mehr went missing on January 19, 1994, while on his way to Mehrabad Airport in Tehran to meet a friend.
No information is available on the defendant’s trial.
The charges brought against the victim are not known.
Evidence of guilt
The report of this execution does not contain information regarding the evidence provided against the defendant.
No information is available on Mr. Hovsepian-Mehr's defense.
Eleven days after his disappearance, Tehran police officials notified Bishop Hovsepian's family of his death. His son was reportedly summoned to the coroner's office to identify the body. Once there, the son was shown only a photograph, from which he identified the body of his father. The date of death was given as January 20, 1994, one day after he had gone missing. In the case of extra-judicial executions, the judgment is not made public. In a letter written a day before his disappearance, Bishop Hovsepian wrote: "I am ready to die for the cause of the Church so that others will be able to worship their Lord peacefully and without so much fear."
Human rights violations in this case
The legal context
Read about the courts, the judges, and the procedure.
Special courts, known as the Islamic Revolutionary Tribunals, were set up after the February 1979 revolution. Their jurisdiction encompasses a wide array of offences ranging from association with or support of the former regime, promotion of foreign influence, and enmity with the revolution to possession, use or sales of narcotic drugs, murder, and profiteering. In the 1980s, a penal court, presided over by one judge, was created to handle some of the offenses punishable by death, such as theft or adultery. These tribunals’ decisions must be confirmed by a chamber of the Supreme Judicial Council.
Prosecutors and judges are not necessarily jurists. By 1981, the judiciary was purged of judges trained in law schools. They were replaced by seminary graduates and students, as well as by political appointees (an estimated 2000 by 1989). Since by law judges are only required to have a high school diploma and must be faithful to the Islamic Republic’s tenets, new recruits often have little formal training in the law and are chosen because of their political affiliation.
The procedures of these ecclesiastical tribunals fail to meet the minimum guarantees for fair trial as established by international human rights instruments and by sha’ria (the Islamic system of law). In addition to executions ordered by revolutionary tribunals, extra-judicial executions are carried out, targeting dissidents and opposition leaders. In some cases, both inside and outside of Iran, these executions have been traced back to Iranian officials. It is, however, not known if in these particular cases trials are held in absentia.
Sources (Among others): Amnesty International, Law and Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, February 1980; Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights, The Justice System of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 1992; E/CN.4/1989/26 p.14; UNCHR, Resolution 1984/54 , Abolition of Torture - Iran - 1; 28 November 1984; Report on the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran by the Special Representative of the Commission, Mr. Reynaldo Galindo Pohl, 28 January 1987. Amnesty International, A SHOCKED WORLD WATCHES IN DISBELIEF, VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS, 1987-1990. Memoirs of Ayatollah Khalkhali, religious judge and former head of revolutionary tribunals (2001), and Ayatollah Montazeri, dismissed successor to Ayatollah Khomeini (2001). UNCH, E/CN.4/1994/50, Final report on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran prepared by the Special Representative of the Commission on Human Rights, Mr. Reynaldo Galindo Pohl, pursuant to Commission resolution 1993/62 of 10 March 1993 and Economic and Social Council decision 1993/273. E/CN.4/1994/50, 2 February 1994.
Extrajudicial killings and the Islamic Republic: A decades-long pattern
Read more about the pattern of extrajudicial killings ordered by the Islamic Republic authorities.
Since the inception of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations’ Commission on Human Rights, have blamed the Islamic regime for the extrajudicial killing of its opponents, both within and outside of its borders. Although over two hundred cases have been reported, the exact number of victims remains unknown.
Extrajudicial executions carried out in Iran are rarely investigated; the few cases that have been investigated have indicated that the Iranian state security apparatus has been involved. Agents of the Islamic Republic have also targeted dissidents outside the country, assassinating opposition members in the Philippines, Indonesia, Japan, India, and Pakistan in Asia; Dubai, Iraq, and Turkey in the Middle East; Cyprus, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Norway, Sweden, and Great Britain in Western Europe; and across the Atlantic in the United States,.
In many of these cases local authorities have made no arrests. However, investigations, when they have taken place and been made public, have led to the single hypothesis of State ordered crimes. The organization and execution of these crimes constitute a pattern that Swiss prosecutor Roland Chatelain describes as “common parameters” following a “meticulous preparation.” Similarities between different cases in different countries have created a coherent set of presumptions designating the Islamic Republic as the instigator of these assassinations. In cases involving prominent Iranians assassinated in France, Germany, and Switzerland, local prosecutors have provided evidence linking Iranian authorities to the crimes in question. In France, for example, the Iranian Deputy Minister of Telecommunications has been sentenced to life imprisonment for his involvement in the 1991 murder of two dissidents. In Germany, agents of Iran's secret services and Lebanese Hezbollah have been convicted for the 1992 murder of four dissidents in Berlin. Currently, the Islamic Republic's Minister of Information and Security at the time of this murder is under an International arrest Warrant launched by German judicial authorities for his involvement. Furthermore, the German court found that Iran's political leadership ordered the murder through a "Committee for Special Operations," whose members reportedly include the Leader of the Islamic Republic, the President, the Minister of Information and Security, and other security officials.
The Islamic Republic’s officials have claimed responsibility for some of these assassinations while denying involvement in others. In the 1980s, Iranian authorities justified extrajudicial executions of dissidents and members of the former regime and actively worked for the release of Iranians and non-Iranian agents who were detained or convicted in the West for their involvement in those killings. During the 1990s, they systematically denied any involvement in extrajudicial killings and often credited the killings to infighting amongst the opposition. Still, the rationale supporting these killings was articulated as early as in the spring of 1979 when the First Revolutionary religious judge publicly announced the regime's intention to carry out extrajudicial executions. He said: “no state has the right to try as a terrorist the person who kills [exiles] in foreign lands, for this person is implementing the verdict issued by the Islamic Revolutionary tribunal.” More than a decade later, in August, 1992, the Minister of Intelligence and Security publicly boasted about the success of Iran's security forces, alluding to the elimination of dissidents: "We have been able to deal blows to many of the mini-groups outside the country and on the borders...."
Based on the available information, the following human rights have been violated in this case:
The right to liberty and security of the person. The right not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 3; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 9.1.
The right not to be punished for any crime on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence, under national or international law, at the time it was committed.
UDHR, Article 11.2; ICCPR, Article 15, Article 6.2.
The right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, including the right to change and manifest his or her religion or belief.
UDHR, Article 18; ICCPR, Article 18.1, ICCPR, Article 18.2; Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, Article 1 and Article 6.
In its general comment 22 (48) of 20 July 1993, the United Nation’s Human Rights Committee observed that the freedom to "have or to adopt" a religion or belief necessarily entailed the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one's current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views, as well as the right to retain one's religion or belief. Article 18, paragraph 2, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights bars coercion that would impair the right to have or adopt a religion or belief, including the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers to adhere to religious beliefs and congregations, to recant their religion or belief or to convert.
The right, as a member of a religious or ethnic minority, to enjoy his or her own culture or to profess and practice his or her own religion.
UDHR, Article 18; ICCPR, Article 27.
The right to equality before the law and the right to equal protection of the law.
UDHR, Article 7; ICCPR, Article 26.
The right to due process
The right to be presumed innocent until found guilty by a competent and impartial tribunal in accordance with law.
ICCPR, Article 14.1 and Article 14.2.
Pre-trial detention rights
The right to know promptly and in detail the nature and cause of the charges against one.
UDHR, Article 9(2); ICCPR, Article 9.2 and Article 14.3.a
The right to counsel of one’s own choosing or the right to legal aid. The right to communicate with one’s own attorney in confidence
ICCPR, Article 14.3.b and Article 14.3.d; Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, Article 1, Article 2 Article 5, Article 6, Article 8.
The right to adequate time and facilities for the preparation of the defense case.
ICCPR, Article 14.3.b.
The right not to be compelled to testify against oneself or to confess to guilt.
ICCPR, Article 14.3.g.
The right not to be subjected to torture and to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
ICCPR, Article 7; Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment, Article 1 and Article 2.
The right to a fair and public trial without undue delay.
ICCPR, Article 14.1, Article 14.3.c.
The right to defense through an attorney or legal aid. The right to examine, or have examined, the witnesses against one, and the right to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on one’s behalf under the same conditions as prosecution witnesses.
ICCPR, Article 14.3.d and Article 14.3.e.
The right to have the decision rendered in public.
ICCPR, Article 14.1.
The inherent right to life, of which no one shall be arbitrarily deprived.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 3; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 6.1; Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, Article 1.1, Article 1.2.
The right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.
ICCPR, Article 7; Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment, Article 1 and Article 2.