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

Delara Darabi

About

Age: 22
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam
Civil Status: Single

Case

Date of Execution: May 1, 2009
Location: Rasht, Gilan, Iran
Mode of Execution: Hanging
Age at time of offense: 17

Human rights violations in this case

The Legal Context

The Courts

 

Islamic Revolutionary Courts, 11 February 1979-1994

 

In the immediate aftermath of the 11 February 1979 Revolution, an ad hoc tribunal, initially referred to as the Extraordinary Revolutionary Tribunal, was set up to try the officials of the previous regime, for which no specific procedures were devised. In a decree dated 24 February 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini, the revolutionary religious leader, appointed a cleric as Shari’a Judge and instructed him “to issue Shari’a-based rulings,” thereby establishing the foundation of a system of special courts.

 

Initially, the revolutionary courts’ jurisdiction was determined by the religious judge’s interpretation of the Shari’a (Islamic law based on the teachings of the Qur’an, the traditions of the Prophet, the 12 imams, and the teachings of Shi’a scholars. On 17 June 1979, the Revolutionary Courts and the Prosecutor’s Office Rules of Procedure, which was only selectively observed, established the latter’s jurisdiction and make-up.

 

The Courts’ jurisdiction encompassed a wide array of offenses including moharebeh (“waging war with God”), efsad e fel arz (“spreading corruption on Earth”), crimes against national and international security, economic crimes, murder, profiteering, prostitution, rape, and narcotic drugs-related crimes. The law required that two of the three principal members of the Revolutionary Courts be Shari’a judges.

 

 

Islamic Revolutionary Courts, 1994-2002

 

With the adoption of the Law for the Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts of 14 June 1994, and the Code of Criminal Procedure for General and Revolutionary Courts of 19 September 1999, a uniform code of procedure was applied to both revolutionary and general courts. The jurisdiction of the Revolutionary Courts was limited to 6 categories of offenses:

1. Crimes against national and international security,“moharebeh” (enmity with god) and “efsad e fel arz” (corruption on earth;)

2. defaming Ayatollah Khomeini and the Supreme Leader;

3. plotting against the Islamic Republic of Iran, armed action, terrorism, and sabotage;

4. espionage;

5. smuggling and drug-related crimes; 6. claims under Principle 49 (economic crimes) of the Constitution.

 6. Furthermore, pursuant to the Law on the Manner of Punishing Individuals Engaged in Unauthorized Audio and Visual Activities, Article 11, the revolutionary courts have jurisdiction over crimes that fall within the purview of said Law, including production and distribution of obscene materials and misuse and abuse thereof.

These courts continued, however, to try cases falling outside their jurisdiction, such as theft and sexual offenses. Further, the vagueness of laws regarding national security allowed the revolutionary courts to try political and media crimes whenever they wished to do so.

 

The new law eliminated the Prosecutor’s Office and gave the judges inthe Revolutionary Courts the power to perform the duties of the prosecutor, as well as their own, in any case brought before them.

 

Islamic Revolutionary Courts, 2002-Present

 

The Amended Law for the Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts of 2002 reinstated the Prosecutor’s Office in both revolutionary and general courts. In cases involving political and media crimes, revolutionary courts’ jurisdiction overlaps with that of Province Criminal Courts.

 

With the passage of the new Rules of Criminal Procedure in 2014, and its coming into force in June 2015, the jurisdiction of the revolutionary courts remains unchanged, with slight modifications in procedural aspects of adjudication. For instance, the new law provides that for crimes subject to the death penalty, life imprisonment, amputation, third degree, or higher, the revolutionary court shall convene with three judges, whereas, prior to the passage of this law, adjudication of all crimes within the jurisdiction of revolutionary courts took place with only a single judge.

The Appellate System of Revolutionary Courts, 1979-Present

 

From their inception until 1994, the rulings of the Revolutionary Courts were not subject to appeal. In the early 1980s a court entitled the Supreme Court of Qom was established in the city of Qom and which reviewed cases of execution and confiscation of properties, thereby forming a first tier form of appeal. The exact date of the creation of the court is not clear, but, based on available information, the court became operational in the early 1980s, even though Ayatollah Khomeini's official order for its creation is dated 1985. The court’s procedure was not systematic and did not meet the international standards for a court of appeals; there was no official record of its jurisdiction. The Supreme Court of Qom was dissolved in 1989.

 

The Law of 14 June 1994 subjected the Courts’ decisions to appeal. An appellate court was established at each provincial capital, called the Province Court of Appeals, composed of a three-judge panel, to review decisions made by the Revolutionary Courts. The Supreme Court was designated as the appellate authority for particular decisions, including those involving capital punishment.

 

Narcotic drugs-related crimes constitute a significant exception to the appeals process. Governed by the Anti-Narcotic Drugs Law of 1988, as Amended on 8 November 1997 and 31 July 3 2010, these crimes are within the jurisdiction of, and are adjudicated on a regular basis by, Revolutionary Courts whose decisions are final. After being handed down by the judge, death sentences are sent to the Prosecutor General or the Head of the Supreme Court as a matter of administrative approval.

 

With the passage of the new Rules of Criminal Procedure in 2014 (and its coming into force in June 2015), however, drug related crimes became subject to appeal as well.

General Courts, 1979-1982

 

In cases not falling under the jurisdiction of the Revolutionary Courts, the system devised under the previous regime continued to function in parallel with new systems devised by laws passed by the Judicial Council, one of which, entitled The Legal Bill for the Establishment of General Courts of 11 September 1979, radically changed the entire structure and categorization of the courts. It divided the courts in three branches: Criminal, Civil, and Peace (a sort of arbitration court dealing with minor financial and other disputes). Specialized courts such as family courts were eliminated.

 

General Courts, 1982-1994

 

The Law of the Amendments to the Rules of Criminal Procedure of 1982 established a new criminal courts system, Criminal Courts I and II. Criminal Court I, established only in provincial capitals, had jurisdiction over more serious offenses, including those punishable by death, and Criminal Court II heard less serious crimes.

 

General Courts, 1994-2002

 

The Law for the Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts of 14 June 1994 established umbrella courts called General Courts, which replaced and dissolved pre-existing civil and criminal courts. The law dissolved the Prosecutor’s offices and tasked a single person with the roles of judge, prosecutor, and investigator.

 

General Courts, 2002-2015

 

In 2002, the 1994 Law was amended, reviving the role of the Prosecutor’s Office in General Courts. The prosecution offices were re-established in a gradual process over several years. The amended law also re-established specialized branches within general courts dealing separately with criminal and civil matters. In addition, this law allocated a number of branches of the Province Court of Appeals to have original jurisdiction over a number of cases including the most serious offenses, as well as political and media crimes. In these cases, the branches are called the Province Criminal Court.

 

General Courts, 2015 to Today

 

With the passage of the new Rules of Criminal Procedure in 2014 and its coming into force in June 2015, general courts underwent certain changes as well. Criminal courts were divided into Criminal Court One, Criminal Court Two, Military Court, Juvenile Court, and Revolutionary Court. Criminal Court One has jurisdiction over serious crimes such as those subject to the death penalty, life imprisonment, amputation, third degree, and higher, as well as political and media crimes. Criminal Court Two has jurisdiction over other crimes. Another change consists of the establishment of juvenile courts, which adjudicates crimes committed by individuals less than 18 years of age. In cases where the individuals less than 18 commit serious crimes such as those subject to the death penalty, however, Criminal Court One will have jurisdiction, observing rules of juvenile criminal procedure.

 

The Appellate System of General Courts, 1979-Present

 

The Legal Bill for the Establishment of General Courts of 11 September 1979, abolished appeal of most criminal courts’ decisions. The law of 1982 restricted the appeal possibility even further. According to the Islamic Republic authorities’ interpretation of Islamic Law, a qualified jurist’s decisions were not subject to appeal except under special circumstances, such as when the judge realized his own mistake, or another judge advised him so, or when he did not have jurisdiction over the case. Even in such situations, the case would not go to a higher court but would be subject to review by the same judge or another judge at his level. The judges were even urged to call their verdicts “opinions,” so that the possible change in the verdict would not be “haram” (“sinful,” the highest level of prohibition in Islam, disobedience of which would result in a sin).

 

In October 1988, the Majles (Iranian parliament) passed a law regarding review of court judgments. This law provided for an appeal if the conviction was claimed to be based on invalid documentation or false testimony. The defendant could also base an appeal on a point of law or a procedural violation.

 

The appellate system was expanded in other laws in the late 1980s and in 1993. The Law for the Establishment of Criminal Courts I and II of 11 July 1989 created the Branches of the Supreme Court. Crimes of less importance, tried in Criminal Court II, were subject to review by Criminal Court I.

 

For the most important crimes involving death punishment, which were under the jurisdiction of Criminal Court I, the law allowed limited appeal to the Branches of the Supreme Court. Defendants had the right to petition the Supreme Court for appeal in certain cases involving false testimony or procedural violations, and if granted, the case would be remanded to either another criminal court or the original one.

 

Finally, the Law for the Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts of 1994, as amended in 2002, established an appellate court at each provincial capital, called Province Court of Appeals, composed of a three-judge panel, to review decisions made by both general and revolutionary courts. The Supreme Court was designated as the appellate authority for particular decisions, including those carrying the death penalty, as well as decisions made by the Province Criminal Court.

 

The amended law of 2002, continued the appellate procedure to the Branches of the Supreme Court established by the afore-mentioned law of 11 July 1989

 

The Supreme Court continues to be the competent authority to rule on new trials, which have been provided for in limited circumstances.

With the passage of the new Rules of Criminal Procedure in 2014 and its coming into force in June 2015, the Court of Appeals shall be the competent authority to hear appeals from Criminal Court Two decisions, and the Supreme Court shall hear appeals from Criminal Court One decisions.

Special Courts for the Clergy

 

These courts are rooted in a 1979 decree, issued by Ayatollah Khomeini, which established a committee of religious and noble figures in every region to purge the clergy of anti-revolutionary elements under the supervision of the Revolutionary Courts. Between late 1981 and 1984, a special court in the city of Qom handled, though not systematically, the trial of clerics.

 

On 29 July 1987, Ayatollah Khomeini officially appointed a prosecutor and a member of the clergy as Shari’a judge for Special Courts for the Clergy. On 6 August 1990, a directive was issued regulating the conduct of these courts, the jurisdictional ambiguity of which is such that it effectively extends to “anyone where one of the parties is a cleric” and to “all matters in which the Court is designated as competent by the Supreme Leader.”

 

The court, which was not mentioned in the Islamic Republic's constitution, was mandated to try “pseudo clerics, those related to/connected with the clergy, for public and/or anti-revolutionary crimes, and violations of the prestige of the clergy,” and where the principal suspect is a member of the clergy, “any co-conspirator or assistant, whether a cleric or not.”

 

These courts are generally not open to the public and can issue sentences for all acts and omissions punishable under codified Iranian laws or Shari’a or for any other acts or omissions which can bring dishonor to the clergy or to the Islamic Revolution. Further, in certain particular cases – which have not been defined – where no punishment has been devised by either the Penal Code or even the Shari’a, the Court “can rule as it deems fit.” 

 

The Appellate System of the Special Court for the Clergy, 1979-Present

 

There is no information on any appeal process for the Special Court for the Clergy prior to the 1990 directive. Article 49 of said directive set up, however, an appeals court called Special Appellate Court for the Clergy, the head of which is appointed by the Supreme Leader, to which the decisions of the lower court can be appealed.

 

Military Courts

 

The military court system, independent from the judiciary under the previous regime, became a part of it on 1 December 1981. The Judiciary Organization of the Armed Forces, established in 1986, replaced and merged other military courts and tribunals in existence at the time, namely the pre-revolution Judiciary Organization of the Army, the Revolutionary Tribunal of the Army (established on 8 December 1979), and the Revolutionary and General Court for the Revolutionary Guards (established on 15 July 1979.) The Judiciary Organization of the Armed Forces has its own Criminal Code and follows the country’s general rules of criminal procedure.

 

The Law of the Criminal Procedure of the Armed Forces of 15 May 1985 created Military Courts I and II. Military Court I has jurisdiction over more serious offenses, including those punishable by death, and Military Court II hears less serious crimes.

 

The Appellate System of Military Courts, 1979-Present

 

The law of 8 December 1979, establishing the Revolutionary Military Court, did not provide for any appeals. The Law of 15 May 1985 created a system of appeals through the creation of a two-tier system of courts. The decisions of Military Court II were subject to review by Military Court I. This law also provided that multiple Branches of the Supreme Court be designated as the appellate court to review decisions of Military Court I.

 

The judges

 

1979-1997: Prosecutors and judges are not necessarily law graduates and jurists. Shortly after the Islamic Revolution, a five-member Committee was established to purge the judicial system of undesirable elements, pursuant to the Legal Bill for the Modification of the Judiciary and the Law for Hiring Judges of 8 March 1979. The power of the committee was absolute and its decisions, resulting in a widespread purge of the judiciary, final.

 

The Law for the Conditions of Selection of Judges of 4 May 1981 established the conditions of eligibility for judges. The latter were to be hired among men who were legitimate children and had practical commitment to Islam and allegiance to the Islamic Republic. The law, which led to the hiring of clerics and Islamic legal scholars, also allowed hiring practically anyone as a judge who could “obtain the Judicial High Council’s permission.” Moreover, Note 2 of the Amendments of 4 October 1982 to this law allowed widespread employment of seminary students “who ha[d] general knowledge equivalent to a high school diploma” as judges at prosecutor’s offices in general as well as Revolutionary Courts.  

 

By 1989, the judiciary counted about 2,000 new judges trained in theological seminaries (graduates and students) and political appointees, many having replaced judges trained in law schools.

 

1997-Present: As of this writing (2013) the Law for Hiring Judges and its amendments of 4 October 1982, 7 February 1987, and 9 May 1988 are in full force and form the basis for hiring judges. The Executive Rules of Procedure of 22 December 1997 subjected such hiring to passing an entrance examination and successful completion of an apprenticeship program, the duration of which ranges between one and two years. The law does not limit hiring to men only but does not specify in what capacity women will be functioning, other than an advisory one.

Currently, judges are selected in accordance with the Guidelines on the Recruitment, Selection, and Internship for Judicial Candidates and the Hiring of Judges.

 

Dismissal of Judges: From 1979 to 1989, the judiciary was run by the Supreme Judicial Council which was composed of the head of the Supreme Court, the Prosecutor General (both of whom were appointed by the Supreme Leader), and three judges elected by the entire body of judges in the country. The Council had the power to hire and dismiss judges in accordance with the law.

 

The constitutional reforms of 1989 substituted the Supreme Judicial Council with one person, the Head of the Judiciary. The Supreme Leader, whose mandate is not subject to popular vote, appoints the Head of the Judiciary for a 5-year term. The latter has significant power to influence the dismissal of judges. Dismissal cases are referred to three types of disciplinary courts, presided over by judges appointed by the Head of the Judiciary, who has veto power over any decisions made by the relevant courts.

 

Two of these courts, established in 1991 and 2011, are charged with examining the judges’ conduct from a religious and ideological standpoint. The process does not necessarily involve the defendant and the final decision, left to the Head of the Judiciary, is not subject to appeal.

 

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 not to be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honor and reputation.

UDHR, Article 12, ICCPR, Article 17.1.

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 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 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 freedom of peaceful assembly.

UDHR, Article 20; ICCPR, Article 21.

The right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade union for the protection of one’s interests.

UDHR, Article 20; ICCPR, Article 22.1.

The right, as a member of a religious or ethnic minority, to enjoy one’s own culture or to profess and practice one’s 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.

UDHR, Article 11.1; 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 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

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.

The right of a person not to be subjected to the capital punishment for an offence committed before the age of eighteen. The right not to be deprived of life while pregnant.

 ICCPR, Article 6.5; Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 37.a.

 

 

 

About this Case

News of the execution of Ms. Delara Darabi on May 1, 2009, was announced on the official news agencies ISNA (Iranian Students News Agency) and IRNA (Islamic Republic News Agency) and most newspapers in Iran such as E’temad, Khabar-e Jonub, Iran, Kayhan, Sarmayeh, and E’temad-e Melli.  Additional information was taken from interviews and articles published by Abdolsamad Khorramshahi and Mohammad Mostafa’i, Ms. Darabi’s attorneys, and Asieh Aminin, a journalist who followed this case closely. These reports were reflected in various media, such as BBC, Radio Farda, Radio Zamaneh, and their personal weblogs. (The full list of resources is at the bottom.)   

Ms. Delara Darabi  was born in Rasht on September 29, 1986. She was an artist who began painting when she was ten years old. Before her arrest, at the age of seventeen, she was a pre-college student.

During Ms. Darabi’s detention period, many artists and civil and human rights activists organized a campaign to free her. They asked the head of the Judiciary (Head of Iran’s Judiciary) to prevent her death, due to her age, her psychological condition, and various ambiguities of the case. An exhibition of this young woman’s paintings in September of 2006 attracted more attention to her case and increased the demand to nullify the death penalty ruling. In a statement published on May 1, 2009, Amnesty International considered the execution of Ms. Darabi in violation of international standards and norms.  

Arrest and detention 

Ms. Delara Darabi was arrested by police and transferred to the Rasht prison on December 28, 2003, at night. According to various reports, on this day, Ms. Darabi and her boyfriend, Amirhossein Sotudeh, entered a house belonging to a cousin of Ms. Darabi’s father, for robbery. The landlord was murdered by several blows of a knife after receiving a knockout blow by a baseball bat. Ms. Darabi and Mr. Sotudeh escaped after robbing the safe of the house. However, Ms. Darabi left her bag there, and her boyfriend refused to return to the victim’s house and take it. Therefore, she called her ex-suitor, Sa’id, for help. Sa’id went to the house and brought back the bag, but he also contacted Ms. Darabi’s father, who called the police. Finally, both Delara and Amirhossein were arrested. 

The case of Ms. Delara Darabi was sent to Branch 10 of the Rasht Courthouse for arraignment the next day, December 29, 2003. Reconstruction of the murder scene took place on December 30, 2003. She was denied access to an attorney during the first days of her detention.

Ms. Delara Darabi had several physical and psychological problems while in detention for years. Once, she attempted suicide in February of 2007. According to her family, all requests to treat her physically and psychologically outside of the prison were rejected.

 Trial

Ms. Delara Darabi was tried in various courts. Her first trial took place at Branch 10 of the Rasht Courthouse on January 15, 2004, only 18 days after her arrest. The court condemned her with an unusual expediency that was rare at the time. Ms. Darabi’s father hired a well-known attorney in Rasht for the first trial. However, the attorney was not present during the first session, where all other defendants and their attorneys were present, in addition to the victim’s family.

Ms. Darabi’s case was sent to various courts to be investigated. The Supreme Court confirmed the ( first trial) court ruling for the first time on September 3, 2004. However, in order to investigate the pills taken by the defendant and the fact that she was under 18 years old, the Supreme Court referred the case to Branch 107 of the Public Court of Rasht ( Juvenile’s Branch). This branch investigated the case in two sessions. The first session took place on December 6, 2004, and Ms. Darabi’s attorney was not present. The next session, with her attorney present, took place on February 9, 2005. (Iran newspaper:  December 24, 2005)

The second hearing of Ms. Darabi’s case took place at Branch 107 of the Public Court of Rasht (Juvenile’s Branch) presided by Judge Javidnia on June 15, 2006.  

Charges

The charges against Ms. Delara Darabi were, “the murder of Mahin Darabi on December 28, 2003, robbing her house, and having an illicit relationship.”    

Evidence of guilt

According to the head of Public Relations of Gilan Courthouse, “Delara Darabi was condemned to death for committing murder, confessing to it, and recovering bloody money under her bed.” (IRNA, Gilan, May 5, 2009)

Defense

A few days after her arrest, while waiting for her trial, Ms. Delara Darabi wrote a letter to the case judge and claimed her innocence. She wrote, “I accepted the responsibility for the murder only because of my feeling for Amir and all his promises. I don’t believe in any of my statements.” (Iran newspaper on December 24, 2005) She also rejected all her previous confessions about the murder during the court session on January 15, 2004. She claimed that Amirhossein had given her some tranquilizing pills, and he killed the victim with the blows of a knife. During the court session, Ms. Darabi stated, “When Amirhossein asked me to go to the victim’s house, I had no idea that he had such an intention. I reject my primary statement. After my arrest for the murder charge, Amirhossein told me several times that I won’t be executed (Qesas) because I was under 18 years old. He asked me to take the responsibility of the murder, and I accepted out of naiveté and because I loved Amirhossein.” In the court, however, Amirhossein accepted his association in the murder and begged pardon from the victim’s family.  (Khabar-e Jonub on June 18, 2006)

One of the most important problems of this case was the fact that Ms. Darabi was under 18 years old when the murder was committed. She was only 17 and should be tried in a children’s court from the beginning. But this important issue was not considered during the primary trial. Also, according to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, signed by Iran, capital punishment for an offense committed before the age of eighteen is strictly prohibited.

During various sessions, Ms. Darabi had announced that she was not the murderer. In explaining the events of the day the murder took place, she said, “That boy and I were lovers. A few days earlier, he told me that he had found a forged title certificate for the house of my father’s cousin, Mahin. He claimed that someone wants to sell the house by this forged certificate. Therefore, he asked me to make an appointment with Mahin at her house to explain this to her. I did that, and we went to Mahin’s house on the day of the incident. Amirhossein had given me some pills, and I was aimless. After he went behind the back of the victim, he hit her with a baseball bat. Then, he tied her mouth and asked me to get him a knife. I aimlessly went to the kitchen and brought a knife. He took it and stabbed Mahin several times. I did not blow even once.” (E’temad-e Melli newspaper on May 2, 2009)

According to Mr. Khorramshahi, Ms. Darabi’s attorney, there were several serious problems in this case. He believes, after the defendant rejected responsibility for the murder, the scene must have been reconstructed. One issue was that Ms. Darabi was left-handed, and most of the blows had been inflicted on the victim from the right side. According to Mr. Khorramshahi, “Even though Delara accepted the responsibility of the murder during the primary investigation, she was left-handed, and she could not hit the victim from behind, on her right side. If the scene was reconstructed once again, she could prove her innocence.”  

Judgment

Branch 107 of the Public Court of Rasht condemned Ms. Delara Darabi to death (Qesas), and Branch 33 of the Supreme Court confirmed the ruling. This ruling was carried out on May 1, 2009, without informing the family or her attorney, while the head of the Judiciary had issued an order for a two-month suspension of the ruling. Ms. Darabi was able to talk to her family over the phone before her execution. Efforts made by her family to visit her for the last time and requesting pardon from the victim’s family were unsuccessful. Ms. Delara Darabi’s body was buried at Bagh-e Rezvan in Rasht.

An appeal of this case had been referred to Branch Seven of the Supreme Court in March of 2007. According to Abdolsamad Khorramshahi, the defendant’s attorney, judges of this branch only considered the primary indictment in a short period of time and confirmed the Qesas ruling against Ms. Darabi. According to Mr. Khorramshahi, the problems of the case were not taken into consideration, and many questions and issues remained without answer. 

According to Mohammad Mostafa’i, who had been the defense attorney after Khorramshahi, “Based on law, Delara’s attorney should have been informed about the fact that the ruling was about to be carried out. Even if she fired her attorney, Mr. Khorramshahi should have been informed, and the defendant should have had an opportunity to hire another attorney.” (Radio Zamaneh)

Many legal experts pointed out several problems with the case, including the fact that it was carried out, unusually, on a Friday. The family and the attorney for the defendant were not present, and the right of the defendant to get pardon from the victim’s family during the last hours was violated.

On the other hand, Amirhossein Sotudeh, who was in prison, asked to meet with the Public Prosecutor of Rasht several times before the execution of Ms. Darabi. He had stated that she was not the murderer and that he was. After Ms. Darabi was executed, Amirhossein wrote a letter and indicated that she was innocent. Finally, Mr. Sotudeh committed suicide at Rasht Prison and died on December 25, 2010. (Democracy and Human Rights Activists in Iran, January 11, 2011)

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*Iran newspaper on December 24, 2005; Khabar-e Jonub on June 18, 2006, and February 1, 2007; ISNA on September 20, 2006, and January 22, 2007; E’temad newspaper on April 25, and October 22, 2006, and April 16, 2009; E’temad-e Melli newspaper on May 2, 2009; IRNA, Gilan, May 5, 2009; Democracy and Human Rights Activists in Iran, January 11, 2011; and Modafe’-personal website of Mohammad Mostafa’i on March 30, 2011. 

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