Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

H. N.


Age: 42
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Presumed Muslim
Civil Status: Unknown


Date of Killing: May 23, 2017
Location of Killing: Central Prison (Vakilabad Prison), Mashhad, Khorasan\Khorasan-e Razavi Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Murder
Age at time of alleged offense: 25

About this Case

in the absence of convincing evidence, was sentenced only on the basis of sworn oaths  

The news of Mr. H. N.’s execution was published by Khorasan newspaper on May 25, 2017.

His case was related to the death of a 73 year old man in the city of Mashhad on November 27, 2000. Case investigations and the issuing of a retaliatory death sentence (“qesas-e nafs”) for Mr. H. N., who was 25 years old when he was arrested, took 17 years.

Arrest and detention

The circumstances of Mr. H. N.’s arrest and detention are not known.


No information is available on Mr. H. N.’s trial.


According to sources, Mr. H. N. was charged with murder.

Evidence of guilt

The report of this execution does not contain information regarding the evidence provided against Mr. H. N. However, the fact that he was sentenced to a retaliatory death sentence (“qesas-e nafs”) on the sole basis of “qassameh”* shows that the evidence against him was not sufficiently convincing to prove the charge of murder.


No information is available on Mr. H. N.’s defense.


Due to lack of convincing evidence against Mr. H. N., the judges ordered “qassameh” to be carried out. According to available information, 50 relatives of the deceased’s next of kin swore that Mr. H. N. had committed the murder.

Investigations went on for 17 years before a death warrant was issued

Therefore, Mr. H. N. was sentenced to a retaliatory death sentence (“qesas-e nafs”) on the sole basis of “qassameh.” The Supreme Court upheld his death sentence.

At daybreak on Tuesday, May 23, 2017, Mr. H. N. was executed under the supervision of the Mashhad Public Prosecutor's sentence implementation judges in Mashhad’s Central Prison.

Mr. H. N was 42 years old at the time of his execution.


* “Qassameh” means an oath taken by a group of people. It is one of the ways that a defendant’s guilt or innocence can be proven for both intentional and non-intentional offenses. Per Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, “qassameh” is carried out in instances where a crime has occurred and no convincing evidence or witnesses exist which could prove the defendant’s guilt, and where a judge has doubt about the defendant’s guilt based solely on circumstantial evidence – a circumstance referred to in religious jurisprudence as “lowth.” Where “lowth” obtains, the judge is bound to ask the defendant to produce evidence disproving the charge. If the defendant demonstrates his innocence in this way, he is acquitted. Failing this, the plaintiff may perform “qassameh” in order to prove the defendant’s guilt, or request that the defendant perform “qassameh” to disprove the charges. This procedure, which requires a defendant to prove his innocence, is contrary to the principle of presumption of innocence and violates the defendant’s right to remain silent. The principle of the presumption of innocence - recognized in Iran’s constitution, Code of Criminal Procedure, and international agreements to which Iran is signatory – holds that all persons are to be considered innocent until proven guilty. A defendant should not be made to prove his own innocence. Proving the charges made against the defendant by presenting adequate evidence and witnesses is the duty of the prosecuting authority (in the Iranian context, the public prosecutor or a private plaintiff.) The right to remain silent is among the defendant’s rights of defense, affording him the right to refrain from answering questions regarding the charges entered against him. Such silence may not be treated as an indication or evidence of guilt or innocence.

In order to substantiate a charge of homicide through “qassameh,” an oath is required from 50 male relatives of the plaintiff. For the charge to be dismissed, fifty male relatives of the defendant must swear to his innocence. Should the number of male relatives taking the oath be less than 50, the defendant may repeat the oath himself in order to meet the required number of swears. In homicide cases, it is not possible for a plaintiff to repeat the oath in this way.

It is not necessary for those taking the oath to have witnessed the commission of the crime themselves.

In Hanafi jurisprudence, “qassameh” can only be carried out to disprove charges against a defendant, and a plaintiff may not use it to substantiate a defendant’s guilt. In Shi’a jurisprudence, however, “qassameh” is carried out in the first stage by the plaintiff to prove the charges against the defendant. Only where the plaintiff foregoes “qassameh” and requests that the defendant perform it himself, can the defendant use “qassameh” to see his charges dismissed.

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