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

Ata'ollah Rezvani

About

Age: 53
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Baha'i
Civil Status: Married

Case

Date of Execution: August 24, 2013
Location: Bandar Abbas, Hormozgan, 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 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 confidenceICCPR, 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.·         The right not to be tried or punished again for an offence for which one has already been convicted or acquitted.ICCPR, Article 14.7.

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

Information regarding the murder of Mr. Ataollah Rezvani, son of Enayatollah, was taken from various sources. His cousin, Mr. Navid Aqdasi, sent several emails to the Boroumand Foundation. In addition, the UN Human Rights Council published a report regarding the extra-judiciary killing of Mr. Rezvani on September 17, 2013. Several other reports were published on the websites of Rooz on August 27, 2013, HRANA on August 25 and October 17, 2013, Radio Zamaneh on August 25 and October 1, 2013, Hormozgan Provincial Courthouse on August 28, Farsi Deutsche Welle on August 27, 2013, Darolershad on August 12, 2010, and Baha’i International Community on August 29, 2013.

Biography

According to the information sent to the Boroumand Foundation, Mr. Rezvani was born in Birjand on March 19, 1961. After completing elementary and high school in his birthplace, he was accepted as a mechanical engineering major at Elm-o San’at (Science and Technology) University in Tehran in 1979. However, he was expelled from the university a year later during the Cultural Revolution. He then worked in Tehran for four years. Finally, he moved to Bandar Abbas to build water treatment units in Minab and Bandar Abbas where he resided until his death. He was married with two children. 

Professional Life

Mr. Rezvani’s cousin, Mr. Navid Aqdasi, provided ABF with detailed information about Mr. Rezvani’s case.  Mr. Rezvani was an active member of the Baha’i Community in Bandar Abbas and was popular in this city for his assistance to Baha’is and non-Baha’is. He was once arrested and detained for two weeks in 1983 during which he got some hearing problems in his left ear due to slaps he received.  In addition to Mr. Rezvani, some other members of his family had been arrested and detained for being Baha’i at various times. For instance his sister, Ms. Sahba Rezvani, was sentenced to three years imprisonment in Semnan and Tehran for being a Baha’i. In addition, officials disrupted Mr. Rezvani’s work in Bandar Abbas by preventing his participation in contract bids. Many of his colleagues and customers were forced to discontinue their business transactions with him due to pressure from authorities. The Intelligence officials imposed this pressure through various institutions such as Amaken (Places) Office and the Security Section of the Department of Water and Wastewater in Bandar-e Abbas. According to Mr. Aqdasi, on one occasion, the Intelligence Office in Bandar Abbas demanded that the Department of Water and Wastewater not purchase their goods from Mr. Rezvani. According to the same source, security officials threatened Mr. Rezvani several times including sending him a message through other interrogated Baha’is as, “tell Rezvani that his turn will come.”

According to Radio Zamaneh, during the past few years, the Intelligence Office in Bandar Abbas and the Emam Jom’eh (Friday Imam) threatened Mr. Rezvani several times. Rezvani sent a letter to Ayatollah Gholam’ali Na’imabadi, Bandar Abbas’s Friday Imam, requesting that the rights of Baha’i citizens be respected and asked the Ayatollah not to provoke people against Baha’is during his Friday sermons. During an interview with Rooz, Mr. Rezvani’s son referred to the multiple speeches of Bandar Abbas’s Friday Imam against Baha’is and added that his father and two other friends wrote a letter to the office of the Friday Imam objecting to his speech. Mr. Rezvani and his friends also filed a complaint with security and military authorities explaining that such speech could cause tension and bloodshed. However, these appeals proved fruitless.   

The Baha’is in the Islamic Republic of Iran: Background

The Baha’i religious community is the largest minority group in Iran, with approximately 300,000 members in 1979 (more current figures are not available).*  The authorities of the Islamic Republic have subjected Baha’is religious  to systematic harassment and persecution, depriving them of their most fundamental human rights. The Baha’i religion is not recognized under the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, and Iranian authorities refer to it as a heresy. As a result, the Baha’is have been denied the rights associated with the status of a religious minority; they cannot profess and practice their faith and are banned from public functions. Discrimination under the law and in practice has subjected them to abuse and violence. **

The Assassination

According to the existing reports, Mr. Rezvani was killed by bullet wounds in Bandar Abbas on August 24, 2013. In the official autopsy report by the coroner’s office dated August 27, 2013, it is clearly stated that a bullet passed from the top of his right ear, top to bottom and from front to back, causing Mr. Rezvani’s death. No sign of resistance or any other injury was observed.

During an interview with Deutsche Welle on August 27, 2013, a relative stated, “Mr. Rezvani as a routine on Saturday night went to the house of his friend who lives abroad and talked to his friend’s worker, Karim. While he was there, an unknown person called Rezvani on his cell phone and they had a long conversation. After this conversation, Rezvani left the house and was killed.” According to Mr. Aqdasi (Rezvani’s cousin, who contacted ABF), Karim was a young Afghan immigrant and was last to see Mr. Rezvani. Karim disappeared several weeks after the murder and there is no news of him.

During an interview with Rooz, Mr. Kurosh Rezvani, the victim’s son, described the night of the incident: “He left the house at 9 p.m. and was supposed to return home but never did. We became worried and searched for him everywhere we could think of including hospitals and police stations. There was no news of him and we had to file a missing person report. While we were doing so, a man called and asked us to go to the Intelligence Police office because our father was found. We went and they said he was dead. They found him on a road going out of town. They said he was shot in the head from behind.” Emphasizing that his father had no enemies, he added, “We called his cell phone until midnight. There was a ring with no answer. At midnight the cell phone was turned off.”

There are many factors indicating the role of official institutions in this murder . Some of them include Mr. Rezvani’s activities as one of the three members of Baha’i Community Servers, repeated threats by unknown individuals, prevention of his economic activities, being summoned and interrogated by security agents many times, provocative speeches against Baha’is by the Friday Imam, especially on the day before the murder (HRANA on August 25), and the physical harassment of several Baha’is in Bandar Abbas without any legal investigation.   In addition there has been no resolution of the investigation of his murder and of statements by the victim’s relatives.

Officials’ Reaction

In spite of the widespread coverage of the suspicious killing of Mr. Rezvani in the media and by international institutions, authorities in Iran did not make any official statement about it. Radio Zamaneh quotes an official who does not want to be named, saying: “It is a high probability that the murderer was seated beside the victim in the passenger seat. Since there was no sign of other injury on Mr. Rezvani’s body nor any scratch on the car’s body, it is clear that the assailant(s) entered the car without resistance and took Mr. Rezvani to a point outside of the town. It is possible that the assailant(s) had made an appointment with him during the phone conversation that the house worker mentioned. For this reason, they stole the cell phone to prevent disclosure of a contacted number.” According to this report, the officials did not respond to the family’s request to receive the list of phone numbers that contacted Mr. Rezvani. (October 1, 2013)

Baha’is in the area were frequent targets of hostile government rhetoric.  Ayatollah Gholam’ali Na’imabadi, Bandar Abbas's Friday Imam, talked against Baha’is in his Friday sermons several times. One speech in particular is described as “lessons” in various sources including the website of Darolershad. In part of this speech, he says:

“Unfortunately, due to society’s lack of awareness, Baha’is have a powerful presence in many sectors, especially in the economic [and financial] sector. Wretched are those who do business with them out of ignorance. I told you that not only are these people [the Baha’is] not Muslim, they are Kafer (“Infidels”). Worse yet, they are hard-core Infidels who are thoroughly and completely in fundamental conflict with Islam. They introduce and present themselves as Muslim and their pretense is, ‘We accept whatever you accept; our only difference is about the Imam of Time (Twelfth Imam in Shi’a Islam, who is absent but will appear someday and establish true Islam).’ They lie. They believe neither in our Koran, nor in the Holy Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be upon Him and His Descendants), nor in Ali (First Imam in Shi’a Islam and Mohammad’s son-in-law and rightful successor). They consider all of this to be in the past (and irrelevant): the Koran has passed, the Imam has passed, and the Prophet has passed; meaning that their time has gone.”

The Friday Imam then prayed: “Almighty God, protect our society from these germs!” [Darolershad website]

The Family’s Statements

 In spite of appeals by Mr. Rezvani’s family, so far there has been no effective action by authorities to identify the perpetrators of this murder. Mr. Rezvani’s sister, Ms. Sahba Rezvani, wrote letters to the president, the Head of the judiciary, the Head of Islamic Human Rights in Iran, and a representative in Parliament demanding follow up on the case of her brother’s assassination. In addition, Mr. Rezvani’s son wrote a similar letter to the president. None of these letters has received any response so far.

According to Mr. Aqdasi, officials claimed that they believed Mr. Rezvani committed suicice.  However,the fact that no gunpowder residue was found on the victim’s hand and the fact that he was left-handed proves the suicide speculation baseless. In his view, authorities attempted to derail the investigation's direction by appealing to such speculation. However, this was not pursued after a year. [Reports sent to Boroumand Foundation]

Mr. Rezvani’s cousin believes that possible motives for his murder may be his popularity. and his actions for public welfare and The fact that he was widely like in the community undermined the assertion that he was murdered by a personal enemy He told the Rooz website: “The more we think about the motivation for his murder, the more we are convinced that there is none except his beliefs. All the family members, friends, and acquaintances whether Baha’i or non-Baha’i draw the same conclusion because he was under pressure for years. He was the most well known Baha’i in Bandar Abbas or even in Hormozgan province. He had a good relationship with everyone and the Intelligence Ministry did not like that. They pressured him directly and indirectly many times.”  

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* ‘Slow Death for Iran’s Baha’is’ by Richard N. Ostling, Time Magazine,20 February 1984. Also see ‘The Persecution of the Baha’is of Iran, 1844-1984, by Douglas Martin, Baha’i Studies,volume 12/13, 1984, p. 3. There is no information about the current number of Baha’is in Iran.

** The Islamic Republic Penal Code grants no rights to Baha’is, and the courts have denied them the right to redress or to protection against assault, murder, and other forms of persecution and abuse. In so doing, the courts have treated Baha’is as unprotected citizens or “apostates,” citing eminent religious authorities whose edicts are considered a source of law equal to acts of Parliament. The Founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini, made execution a punishment for the crime of apostasy and decreed that a Muslim would not be punished for killing an apostate.

Banishment from public functions has seriously damaged the Baha’is’ professional, economic, and social lives. Soon after the revolution, a Ministry of Labor directive called for the dismissal from public office and all governmental organizations and associations of those “who belong to any of the misguided sects recognized by all Muslims as heretical deviations from Islam, or to organizations whose doctrine and constitution are based on rejection of the divinely-revealed religions.” Finally, the mandatory requirement of specifying religion in application forms and official documents (lifted recently in some areas under international pressure) has seriously limited Baha’is’ freedoms and opportunities in all areas of their lives including divorce, inheritance, access to universities and travel.

In practice, since 1980, thousands of Baha’is have lost their jobs, pensions, businesses, properties and educational opportunities. By banning the Baha’i administration including Spiritual Assemblies -  the elected bodies that lead and administer the affairs of Baha’i communities at both local and national levels -  the Islamic Republic has denied Baha’is the right to meet, elect, and operate their religious institutions. Further, the Iranian government has executed at least 200 Baha’is and has imprisoned, tortured, and pressured to convert to Islam scores more. 

Because of the unanimous international condemnation of the persecution of this quietist, apolitical religious community, Iranian authorities do not always admit that the Baha’is are being punished for their religious beliefs. Therefore, judicial authorities have often charged Baha’is with offenses such as “being involved in counter-revolutionary activities,” “having supported the former regime,” “being agents of Zionism,” or “being involved with prostitution, adultery, and immorality.”

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