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

Haji Mohammad Ziaie

About

Age: 55
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam (Sunni)
Civil Status: Unknown

Case

Date of Execution: July 20, 1994
Location: Fars, Iran
Mode of Execution: Unspecified extrajudicial execution

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 extrajudicial killing of Haji Mohammad Ziaie is drawn from reports by Amnesty International published in 1995 and 1996. A Sunni Muslim leader from Bandar-Abbas, Mr. Ziaie was known to be critical of government policies.

"Amnesty International includes in its definition of extrajudicial executions the killing of specific individuals which can reasonably be assumed to be the result of government policy at any level."

Arrest and detention

According to Amnesty International, Mr. Haji Mohammad Ziaie was arrested in 1981. During the period of his detention in 1981, he was reportedly tortured for several weeks. Although he was released later, he continued to be harassed. This harassment reportedly increased after the execution of Dr Ali Mozaffarian (another Sunni Leader) in 1992. Haji Mohammad Ziaie had to travel to Tehran once a month for interrogation. He was reportedly summoned for interrogation at the Security Headquarters in Laar, in Fars province, on July 15, 1994. During his last interrogation he was reportedly promised that he could open the Sunni Mosque in Shiraz, which had been closed for some time, and that there would be no need for further interrogations.

Trial

No information is available on the defendant’s trial.

Charges

The charges brought against Mr. Ziaie are not known.

Evidence of guilt

Amnesty International reports that in 1981, Mr. Ziaie had been arrested allegedly for giving an interview to a Kuwaiti magazine in which he highlighted the plight of Sunni Muslims in Iran and condemned the execution of Iranian opposition activists.

Defense

No information is available on Mr. Ziaie's defense.

Judgment

Mr. Ziaie was sentenced to death in 1981 and later released. On July 20, 1994, five days after he had been summoned for interrogation in Laar, his mutilated body was found in a valley around the Shah-Mossallam area, some 200 kilometers from Laar. His body was reportedly beheaded, and one arm and one leg had been amputated. Security officials in Laar reportedly attributed his death to a car accident. "However, this account differs from eye-witness reports [received by Amnesty International] which suggest that his mutilated body was found separately from the car, which did not bear signs consistent with the alleged accident."

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