Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Haik Hovsepian-Mehr

About

Age: 48
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Christianity
Civil Status: Married

Case

Date of Execution: January 20, 1994
Location: Tehran, Iran
Mode of Execution: Unspecified extrajudicial execution
Charges: Unknown charge

Human rights violations in this case

Extrajudicial killings


Since the inception of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, national and international human rights organizations have blamed the Islamic Republic authorities for the extrajudicial killing of their opponents, both within and outside of Iran's 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 Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and in the United States,.

In many assassination cases outside Iran, 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.

 

The German court in Berlin 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...."

Human rights violations

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.

Trial rights

  • 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.

Judgment rights

  • The right to appeal to a court of higher jurisdiction.

  • ICCPR, Article 14.5.

  • The right to seek pardon or commutation of sentence.

  • ICCPR, Article 6.4.

Capital punishment
  • 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.

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.

Trial

No information is available on the defendant’s trial.

Charges

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.

Defense

No information is available on Mr. Hovsepian-Mehr's defense.

Judgment

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."

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