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

Kianush Asa

About

Age: 26
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Other
Civil Status: Single

Case

Date of Execution: June 15, 2009
Location: Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Execution: Shooting (extrajudicial)

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, some or all of the following human rights may 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 one’s 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 or 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 to freedom of opinion and expression, including the right to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas.

    UDHR, Article 19; ICCPR, Article 19.1 and ICCPR, Article 19.2.

The right to due process

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 legal aid and the right to meet with one’s attorney in confidence

    ICCPR, Article 14.3.d; Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, Article 1 , Article 2, Article 5, Article 6, and Article 8.

  • The right to adequate time and facilities for the preparation of the defense case.

    ICCPR, Article 14.3.b; Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, Article 8

  • 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 or punishment.

    UDHR, Article 5; 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 9.3, Article 14.1, Article 14.3.c.

    • The right to examine, or have examined the witnesses against one and to obtain the attendance and examination of defense witnesses under the same conditions as witnesses for the prosecution.

ICCPR, 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

Introduction

The information regarding Mr. Kianoosh Asa’s extrajudicial killing was drawn from an interview by the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation (ABF) with one a person close to Mr. Asa, and the following websites: Amnesty International (20 June 2011), BBC News (17 August 2010), the Committee of Human Rights Reporters (17 June 2009; 21 March 2010; 19 August 2009), Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan Website (7 September, 2009), Roozonline (17 June 2010; 29 July 2009; 7 April 2010), Kalameh (24 March 2011), BBC Persian (10 December 2010), Radio Farda (28 november 2009), Parcham (3 October 2009).

Mr. Asa was shot during the post-presidential election protests in Iran on June 15, 2009. He was born into a Kurdish family from the Sanjabi tribe in Kermanshah. The members of this tribe are mostly "Ahl-e Haq”religion or “Yarsan” (1) (Committee of Human Rights Reporters, 21 March 2010).

Mr Asa graduated from the Razi University of Kermanshah in chemical engineering with a concentration in gas and petro chemistry and was enrolled in a masters’ program at the Elm-o San’at University of Tehran. He was planning to finish his thesis during the summer of 2009. He left Kermanshah for Tehran before the election day and told his family that his trip to Tehran was necessary to take care of some administrative issues related to his thesis (ABF interview).

Mr. Asa was known as a responsible and intelligent person who particularly valued education. He had found a job to suport his family financially after his graduation in order to make it possible for his older brother – who had to leave school after their father’s death – to go back to school. He also was an active member of civil society, especially focused on environmental activism. He was a member of many groups and clubs such as the “Technical School of Razi University,” “Kurd Youth,” “Youth of Kermanshah” and “Shajarian.” He was also a member of the “Association of the Green Front” and participated in its activities, such as cleaning up trash from the mountains (ABF interview with one of Mr. Asa’s relatives).

Mr. Asa did not belong to any political party, yet, according to the interviewee, he did not believe in apathy. He was interested in political and social issues and brought the university publications home and encouraged others to read them. Before the presidential election of 2009, he was a member of Mehdi Karoubi’s campaign. He used to discuss his support for Mr. Karoubi openly at his university (ABF interview). Mr. Asa also liked reading books, especially history books. He was interested in drawing. He used to play the tanbour, a traditional Iranian music instrument (Roozonline, 28 May 2009; ABF interview with one of Mr. Asa’ relatives).

Death

Mr. Asa was shot on 15 June 2009, during massive demonstrations related to the Green Movement, but the exact date of his death remains unclear, the reasons for which are described below. According to one his relatives, Mr. Asa left his dormitory at around 2:00 or 3:00 P.M. on 15 June in order to attend a rally in favor of the Green Movement. He also brought along several students. On Azadi Street in Tehran, 2 or 3 kilometers from Azadi Square, his friends left him one by one despite Mr. Asa’s insistance on continuing to the rally. Based on the available information, Mr. Asa heard the leaders of the Green Movement, walked towards the sounds and left his friend. That was the last time his friend saw him alive (ABF interview).

According to the interviewee, eye-witnesses said that he was shot once in the side. He was moving his hands, legs and neck and even turned his head. Other protesters picked him up and put him in a car (ABF interview).

On the morning of 17 June 2009, after several unsuccessful calls to his cell phone, Mr. Asa’s brother and sister went from Kermanshah to Tehran to find him. At first they went to the Rasul Akram Hospital, where some of the wounded protesters of 17 June but they were not allowed to enter the hospital. They were shown a list of wounded, but Mr. Asa’s name was not among them. They were told that the security forces took most of the wounded and all the dead from the hostpital two days prior. They also went to Evin Prison every day and to Kahrizak Center without success. In the following days, they searched for Kianoosh unsuccessfully. They went to the Revolutionary Tribunal, the Shapour Police Station, the NAJA Intelligence Service, the Security Police and other places where they guessed Mr. Asa might be (ABF interview).

Finally, on Wednesday 25 June, they went to the Forensic Office and found their brother’s picture among photographs of people who had been killed but remained unidentified (ABF interview).

On Mr. Asa had been shot twice. Once in his side as reported by eye witnesses and once in the neck (ABF interview and Committee of Human Rights Reporters, 19 August 2009). The official death certificate reported his date of death as June 19th. Therefore, it is not clear where and under what condition Mr. Asa was kept from 15 June to 19 June and how he was killed (Amnesty International, 20 June 2011). According to one of his relatives, his body was bruised and his mouth was full of blood. There was a scar of a bullet in his neck but it was stitched up in a way so that the size and type of the bullet were not detectable (ABF interview). According to Mr. Asa’s mother, the forensic report is very incomplete. It does not specify, for example, the kind of bullets used to kill Mr. Asa and whether or not the two bullets were shot from the same gun, etc. This report provides that the body was delivered to the morgue by unknown individuals (Roozonline, 7 April 2010). The death certificate mentions that Mr. Asa’s death was caused by the “violence by others” (BBC, 17 August 2010). Mr. Asa’s belongings were were never returned to the family (Radio Farda, 28 November 2009).

The Family’s Reaction

The Asas filed a complaint at the Criminal Prosecution Office on Davazdah-e Farvardin Avenue, and requested to receive his body. According to his mother, after seeing Mr. Asa’s academic record from Elm-o San’at University, the judge offered his condolences and issued an order to deliver the body to the family (The Committee of Human Rights Reporters, 19 August 2010), which was done on 27 June (Kalameh, 30 November 2010).

The burial ceremony of Mr. Asa was held on 28 June (Kalameh, 30 November, 2010) in silence, which was a decision made by the family in order for them to be allowed to hold the ceremony in their traditional way. Once the ceremony was held, the Asas focused their effort to follow up on the case. They met with political figures, sent several letters to the head of the Judicial and Legislative Branches and the Special Committee to Investigate Post-Election Incidents. They also hired a lawyer for their case but as of the summer of 2011, they have not been successful in finding follow up on Mr. Asa’s case (ABF interview).

The family also wrote several letters to government officials and had several interviews with media outlets Mr. Asa’s case On 7 December 2009; he was invited to give a speech in Elm-o San’at University in his brother’s memory. The authorities arrested him that day (BBC Persian, 8 December 2009). 

State Officials’ Reactions

State officials did not provide any official statement regarding Mr. Asa and did not accept any responsibility for his death. The Special Committee to Investigate Post-Election Incidents did not contact the Asas (ABF interview). According to Mr. Asa’s mother, judicial officials required from the family to present a suspect in his murder and to withdraw their complaint to the court. To date, their lawyer’s efforts to follow-up on Mr. Asa’s case did not lead to concrete results and the judge assigned to the case told the Asa family that their case would not come to any conclusion. Mr. Asa’s brother and sister were summoned once and questioned about general issues relating to the case. None of the family’s letters were answered except one letter the head of the Parliament where the parliament refers them to the judiciary (Kalameh, 24 March 2011).

Moreover, the authorities put pressure on the Asas not to have a public burial ceremony and continued to do so for any memorial ceremony held for Kianoosh. According to Mr. Asa’s mother, the burial ceremony was held on 27 June 2009 without the traditional public announcement. Th security forces were present in number and under cover at the ceremony. They interrupted a relative from filming the ceremony, took the film and returned it to the family a couple of days later, after eliminating parts of it including the images Mr. Asa’s mother crying on the grave,. During the Chehellom ceremony (a memorial which is held on the 40th day after death) Mr. Asa’s older brother was arrested while giving a speech about Mr. Asa. The undercover police used pepper spray against Mr. Asa’s mother and sister, when they tried to prevent Kamran’s arrest. Many other people were arrested during the unrest that ensued afterwards (Roozonline, 17 June 2010).

The family was harassed for trying to keep the memory of Kianoosh alive. Other siblings of Mr. Asa were questioned and threatened at their work places as well. Mr. Asa’s older brother was summoned from his office to the intelligence service office several times (Kalameh, 24 March 2011). He was also arrested in March 2011 when he was at Mr. Asa’s grave by the agents of Ministry of Intelligence. He was detained for a short time at the Branch of Ministry in Kermanshah (Roozonline, 7 April 2010).

The security forces arrestd Mr. Asa’s brother, Mr. Kamran at least twice. Once on 7 December 2009 while he was trying to get into the Elm-o San’at University, as mentioned previously. He was released after two months on the third party custodian. He was arrested once again days before the anniversary of his brother’s death. According to Mr. Asa’s mother, security forces went to the Asas’ home and searched the place, including Kianoosh’s room. They confiscated Mr. Asa’s books, thesis, his music instrument and other personal belongings. They charged Mr. Kamran Asa; he was with, “propaganda against the regime.” One of the interrogator’s concerns was a letter Mr. Kamran Asa’s was going to write regarding his brother’s case to the head of the judicial branch and a letter he had written to Mr. Karoubi. They also told Mr. Kamran Asa that his family took advantage of Mr. Asa’s death and wanted to use it as propaganda against the regime and the family intended to create unrest during the anniversary of Kianoosh’s death. Mr. Kamran Asa was released on $11,000 dollar bail. He was warned however to stop following-up on Mr. Asa’s case, to avoid the arrest of the entire family for which warrents were already issued (Roozonline, 17 June 2010). According to Mr. Kamran Asa, one of the interrogators told him, “Your mother is still mourning for Kianoosh. Don’t make her mourn for her other children as well” (Kalameh, 24 March 2011).

Mr. Asa’s mother noted: “We are always being watched. All of our movements are controlled. Our telephones are bugged. All these times, we have never been able to go to Kianoosh’s, my son’s grave in peace. There are always security agents around his grave. When there is a special event, there are always 6 to 7 vehicles full of male and female agents but in the rest of the days there are palin-clothes.They sometimes even sit at the grave with this excuse that they are praying for Kianoosh” (Roozonline, 7 April 2010).

Other relatives of Mr. Asa were also threatened for carrying a picture of him or talking about him. These police forces attacked Mr. Asa’s cousin’s shop and arrested him because he had a picture of Mr. Asa in his shop. On another occasion, the police summoned a relative who had talked about Kianoosh on the phone and threatened him not even to the name ‘Kianoosh’ if he didn’t want to end up like Kianoosh (Kalameh, 24 March 2011).

The harassment and threats continued each year, during the anniversary of Mr. Asa’s death in an effort to prevent people to attend. For example, in Mr. Asa’s anniversary the plain-clothes stopped and searched the cars of the people who intended to participate in the ceremony including Mr. Asa’s nephew and threatened them not to participate. They even warned the printing companies which tried to print Mr. Asa’s poster for the ceremony (Kalameh, 30 November 2011). According to Mr. Asa’s mother, unknown people poured acid on his grave stone and set it on fire. The grave stone was a gift from the victim’s friends. The police also uprooted the sapling which was planted on his grave (Roozonle, 18 August, 2010).

Background

Election returns from Iran’s 12 June 2009, presidential election declared Mahmoud Ahmadinejad re-elected with 62.63 percent of the vote. Following the announcement, citizens disputing these official results demonstrated in the streets. Text messaging services were disrupted starting at 11:00 p.m. on the night before the election and remained unavailable for nearly three weeks, until July 1st. On Election Day, the deputy chief of Iranian police announced a ban on any gathering of presidential candidates’ supporters throughout the country. The same evening, security forces made a “show of strength,” increasing their presence in Tehran’s public squares to “reinforce security at polling stations.” Officials at election headquarters began reporting results soon after midnight, despite a statement from the Minister of the Interior that the first returns would not be announced until after the Morning Prayer (around 4:00 a.m.).

Many supporters of other presidential candidates came out into the streets on 13 June , once the results were made public, to protest what they believed to be a fraudulent election. Candidates Mir Hossein Musavi, Mehdi Karubi, and Mohsen Reza’i, Ahmadinejad’s competitors in the race, contested the election, alleging many instances of fraud. They filed complaints with the Council of Guardians, the constitutional body charged with vetting candidates before elections take place and approving the results afterwards, requesting an annulment and calling for a new election. Before the Council of Guardians could review their claims, however, the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, congratulated Ahmadinejad on his re-election. In the meantime, many people active in Karubi’s and Musavi’s campaigns were arrested.

On 15 June, unprecedented demonstrations filled the streets of central Tehran. The number of people in attendance was not officially estimated. It was said that up to 3,000,000 people attened the protest. As the demonstrations were ending, paramilitary forces attacked the marchers, injuring and killing several people. To prevent such news from being broadcast, the Iranian government expelled foreign journalists from the country and banned news agencies from reporting on the events. Over the next three days, protesters took part in peaceful demonstrations in Tehran. The repression entered a new phase on 19 June after Ayatollah Khamenei’s Friday sermon, in which he announced his support for Ahmadinejad and warned protestors that they were responsible for any disorder and its consequences. Amnesty International stated that the speech gave “legitimacy to police brutality.” The next day and thereafter, police and plainclothes paramilitary groups attacked the protesters. Public gatherings of any kind were declared illegal, and police, motorcycle-riding special units wearing black uniforms and helmets, and plainclothes agents brutally enforced this restriction.

Individuals in civilian clothing, commonly referred to as plainclothes forces, are used in the Islamic Republic to disrupt political and trade union activities, student events and gatherings, electoral initiatives, and protests. Armed with sticks and clubs, and sometimes with chains, knives, batons, or firearms, they emerge when the state decides to suppress dissent. These plainclothes forces move about freely, violently beating protesters and arresting them, while the police passively look on or actively cooperate with them.

There is little information on the command structure and organization of such groups, whose members wear ordinary clothing rather than official uniforms and may be affiliated with the ministry of information, influential political groups, or the armed forces. Following the post-election demonstrations in June 2009, pictures of some plainclothes agents were posted on internet websites. Internet users helped to identify some of them and provided evidence that these individuals were affiliated with the Basij paramilitary groups, the Revolutionary Guard Corps, and state intelligence forces. On 16 September 2009, a deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards Corps of the Province of Tehran confirmed the active and decisive role of Basij forces in the repression of the demonstrations, saying, “Basijis, through their presence in recent events, have blinded the eyes of the conspirators, and they should be appreciated… The enemies of Islam wanted to make the air dusty and to exploit the recent events, but thank God, through the enlightenment of the Honorable Leader we were victorious against this conspiracy.” He also emphasized, “The zealous youth of [the] Basij, believers in the Guardianship of the Jurisprudent, are the second and third generations of the Revolution. They have been successful in this stage and victorious on this battlefield.”

When personal property was damaged during the protests, government authorities and state-run radio and television programs accused the demonstrators of vandalism and justified the repression. At the same time, however, footage posted online showed security forces destroying and damaging property on side streets and in uncongested areas away from the protests. Moreover, in a public gathering in Tehran on 20 October, the chief of Iranian police conceded that police had destroyed and damaged property and accepted responsibility for it.

The precise number of citizens injured, killed, or disappeared in the post-election violence is not known. According to various reports, there were hundreds of victims in demonstrations throughout the country. More than seventy names have been reported. It is said that officials have threatened victims’ family members, demanding their silence and that they refrain from giving interviews. Reports also allege that returning a victim’s body to a family has been made conditional upon their agreement to change the cause of death listed on the coroner’s certificate to that of a heart attack or some other natural cause — thus foregoing the right to file a complaint — as well as the family's agreement not to hold memorial services for the loved one.

According to government statements, more than 4,000 people were arrested throughout Iran in the weeks following 12 June. Many have been held at the Kahrizak Detention Center, where prisoners’ rights and minimum hygiene standards were typically ignored. Numerous reports of violence, including the torture and rape of detainees, have been published. State reports and testimonies confirm that a number of detainees at Kahrizak died in custody due to beatings, difficult and unbearable prison conditions, and torture.

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(1) Ahle Haq (Yarsan) is a religious minority that the Iranian constitution does not recognize. Its members, living primarily in western Iran and Iraq, are mostly ethnic Kurds and are estimated to be around 1,000,000 people. They are subjected to religious discrimination and prevented from practicing their faith communally.

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