More Secret Group Executions in Mashad Prison, Despite Concerns Raised by UN Secretary General Report
Local sources in Mashad told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that ten more prisoners were secretly hanged at Vakilabad Prison on Wednesday, 2 March 2011. The ten prisoners were executed without their families or lawyers being informed. This news comes on the heels of the UN Secretary General’s report, released at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, that brought attention to secret group executions inside Mashad’s Vakilabad Prison. Previously, through information obtained from reliable local sources, the Campaign reported on the executions, but authorities have remained silent about executions at Vakilabad.
The UN Secretary General confirmed the group executions at Vakilabad Prison in his 14 March report on the situation of human rights in Iran saying, “In July 2010, a large number of prisoners were reportedly executed all at once in Mashhad prison. When OHCHR staff sought further information from Iranian counterparts during a visit to Tehran in December 2010, they confirmed that 60 persons had been executed in Mashhad in pending cases mostly linked to drug trafficking.”
As in previous group executions at Vakilabad, the prisoners themselves were unaware about their impending execution until a few hours before the sentences were carried out. All those executed on 2 March were convicted on drug-related charges.
The executions on 2 March were also not officially announced by Iranian government entities. According to Iranian law, execution sentences must be confirmed by the Supreme Court, but these executions lacked the Supreme Court’s Confirmation Letter addressed to the prisoners’ lawyers.
In interviews with the Campaign, some former prisoners and several family members of those executed inside Vakilabad Prison testified to the rushed and unfair manner in which the court was conducted, and sentences issued and confirmed. The nephew of a prisoner who was secretly hanged on 18 August 2010, told the Campaign that it only took two months from the moment his uncle was arrested, to the time he was hanged. All the while he was deprived of a fair trial. He added that the basis his uncle’s death sentence was the discovery of 300 grams of drugs inside the his home. His uncle claimed that the drugs belonged to another person who fled the scene, but finding the drugs in his home became the basis for his prosecution, sentencing, and execution in a summary and illegal process, during which the accuracy of his claims were never examined.
According to statements made by reliable sources, whose earlier statements have been confirmed by Iranian authorities as the UN Secretary General’s report indicates, the 60 executions Iranian authorities acknowledged to OHCHR representatives do not represent all the executions carried out inside Vakilabad Prison between 21 March 2010 and 20 March 2011. According to trusted local sources, just on Wednesday, 19 August 2010, 67 prisoners were hanged during secret group executions. The largest numbers of executions took place between 23 July and 22 August 2010, where 60 prisoners were hanged each day in four distinct group executions. The Campaign has repeatedly asked Iranian authorities to respond to these claims and announce the exact number of executions carried out in Vakilabad Prison. Iranian authorities acknowledged the executions of 60 individuals to OHCHR, while not even one of these executions had been previously publicly confirmed by the Judiciary. This creates serious questions about the concealment of facts regarding executions of drug trafficking suspects.
Eyewitnesses and suspects who were previously detained by the Investigative Police Office and the Police Intelligence Unit, have provided testimony about beatings, physical abuse, and severe torture of ordinary prisoners for acceptance and admission of charges inside detention centers. “Many of the rulings issued by the Revolutionary Court of Mashad are based solely on confessions made by suspects under severe torture. The summary and secret process of issuing and carrying out the widespread death sentences inside Vakilabad Prison indicate the unfairness of many of these sentences. Many of those executed did not commit a crime themselves, but were sentenced to death and executed for crimes committed by their relatives or friends,” said a human rights activist in Mashad.
Other than Vakilabad Prison, former local prisoners and other reliable sources reported similar executions inside Birjand and Taibad Prisons. Most of those executed inside Taibad Prison were Afghan citizens. On 31 January, Iran’s Prosecutor General, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei and the man directly in charge of drug trafficking cases all over the country, referred to the executions of several drug trafficking suspects inside Birjand Prison during a press conference. The number and details of the prisoners executed in Birjand Prison on that day were never announced, a fact that confirms the existence of secret executions there.