Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

https://www.iranrights.org
Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Hassan Afshar

About

Age: 19
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Presumed Muslim
Civil Status: Unknown

Case

Date of Killing: July 18, 2016
Location: Arak, Markazi Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Homosexual rape
Age at time of offense: 17

About this Case

Convicted of sodomy, 17-year-old Hassan Afshar sat in a jail cell, his life in ruins. For seven months, judiciary officials kept a secret from him more terrible than any trial confession.

News of the execution of Mr. Hassan Afshar was published by various sources including Amnesty International (August 2, 2016,) Radio Farda and Radio Zamaneh (August 3, 2016,) and Iran Wire (August 1, 2016.) Additional information was taken from a section of the verdict issued by the court. Mr. Afshar, son of Asadollah, was a high school student residing in Arak in Markazi province. He was 17 years old when arrested. 

International laws have strictly prohibited capital punishment against those who were under the age of 18 at the time of committing the crime. As a party to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Iran has the obligation to avoid capital punishment for an offence committed before the age of eighteen.

In an announcement, Amnesty International criticized Mr. Afshar’s execution by judicial authorities in Iran, noting their “sickening enthusiasm for putting juveniles to death” as “brazen disregard for international law.”

Arrest and detention

Mr. Afshar was arrested in 2014 following a complaint of rape filed against him and two other adolescents. The circumstances of his arrest and detention are not known except that he was detained at the Rehabilitation and Correction Center for adolescents because he was under the legal age of 18 years old when arrested.

Trial

Branch One of the Criminal Court in Arak tried Mr. Afshar in 2014. It is not clear whether his attorney had been present during the trial or whether his attorney was a public defender or otherwise assigned to him. According to the verdict, Mr. Afshin Madani was his attorney. No detailed information is available on his trial.

Charges

The charges brought against Mr. Afshar were announced as “forcible sodomy and possession of a pornographic film.”  

The validity of the criminal charges brought against this defendant cannot be ascertained in the absence of the basic guarantees of a fair trial.

Evidence of guilt

According to the verdict issued by the court, the defendant’s “confession,” forensics report, and a film depicting “sodomy” were the evidence which grounded the court ruling.

International human rights organizations have repeatedly condemned the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for its systematic use of severe torture and solitary confinement to obtain confessions from detainees and have questioned the authenticity of confessions obtained under duress.

Defense

No information is available on Mr. Afshar’s defense. According to the Amnesty International report, Mr. Afshar had rejected the rape charge, telling the court that the sexual relationship had been consensual and that the plaintiff had participated willingly. According to the same report, he had no access to an attorney and the judicial authorities had rushed to issue a ruling only two months after the arrest. These authorities did not inform Mr. Afshar of his sentence for seven months.   

According to the verdict of Branch 24 of the Supreme Court, the court did not adequately investigate Afshar’s case, including considerations of his mental development and maturity. Mr. Afshar was younger than 18 when the crime took place.  

A Summary of the Defects of Mr. Hassan Afshar’s Legal Proceedings

In the new Islamic Penal Code, there is a significant difference between “insertive” and “receptive” individuals in homosexual relations. If the relationship is consensual and the act of penetration has [actually] occurred, the “insertive” partner is sentenced to 100 lashes, and the “receptive” partner is executed. If, however, the homosexual act is not consensual, the insertive individual will be considered a “rapist” and sentenced to death, and the one who has been raped will be freed.

In order to prove “penetration”, the judge will invite the accused to confess 4 times, that is, the judge will ask the accused to leave the courtroom 4 times and [return to] confirm his claim with a calm and reassured mind. In consensual relations, the receptive person will be subjected to the death penalty, and in non-consensual relations, characterized as rape, it is the rapist who will be executed.

It was said that upon the enactment of the new Islamic Penal Code, the number of executions would decrease, since only one person would be sentenced to death instead of two. This [new law], however, has increased the probability of confessing and has made it easier [to do so]. In the past, both parties would deny that any relationship existed between them in order to escape the death penalty. Pursuant to the new law, however, if one accuses the other of rape and states that the relation was non-consensual, he will be spared the death penalty and his sexual partner will be hanged. Similarly, the person characterized as the rapist, can claim that the relation was consensual so that the receptive person can be sentenced to death and he, himself, to 100 lashes. Rape has, in effect, become the equivalent of consensual relations, [in that] it is a coin toss as to which of the two parties will be sentenced to death. Across the world, the heaviest sentence is [issued] for rape; but in Iran, the heaviest sentence, that is, the death penalty, will be issued for the receptive partner even if a relationship is truly consensual.

It seems that what happened in Hassan Afshar’s case is based on this same complexity. He had stated that the relationship was consensual, and if this had been proven, what would have [had to have been] done [for purposes of ascribing guilt] would have been to determine which individual was the insertive partner and which one the receptive one; and it was possible that the plaintiff in the case would have been hanged for being the receptive partner. The complaint was, however, based on “sexual rape”, and Hassan was, therefore, found to be the “rapist” and executed.

Fear of the death penalty can put a defendant in a situation where he would accuse the other person of “rape”, and the rapist could claim that here was no rape and that there was mutual consent, in order to escape the death penalty, whereas, when we talk of “force” [for purposes of proving rape] “there must be 4 witnesses to forceful rape, [proof] that the event [of rape] has occurred with force and without the other party’s consent.” (Mehri Jafari, Attorney at Law, Radio Zamaneh, August 3, 2016).

Judgment

Branch One of the Criminal Court condemned Mr. Hassan Afshar to death for forcible sodomy.  Branch 24 of the Supreme Court at first refused to confirm the ruling on January 21, 2016 due to violations in the investigation, referring the case back to the primary court. Ultimately, however, the ruling was confirmed by the Supreme Court.

Mr. Afshar was hanged in the yard of Arak Central Prison on July 18, 2016. No specific information is available about this execution. According to the Amnesty International report, the execution was carried following a July 15, 2016 promise from the Office of the Head of Judiciary to Afshar’s parents that the case would be reviewed. 

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