UN representatives have called for Iran to immediately halt its planned execution of two LGBTQ+ rights activists who were sentenced to death for supporting the queer community.
Iran’s legal system criminalises homosexuality, which under the country’s Penal Code 2013 is punishable by death.
On 4 September Zahra Seddiqi-Hamedani, 31, and Elham Choubdar, 24, were found guilty of “spreading corruption on earth” by a court in Urmia, northwest Iran, Hengaw Organisation for Human Rights reported.
The verdict, reached in August, came after the two activists were accused by the Urmia Public Prosecutor’s Office in January of “promoting homosexuality”, “promoting Christianity”, and “communicating with the media opposing the Islamic Republic”.
Alongside being convicted for “corruption on earth” the pair were also convicted on charges of “trafficking” as they had helped at-risk individuals escape the country.
Iran’s execution order ‘strongly condemned’
In a bid to annul the court’s decision, UN experts have demanded authorities release Seddiqi-Hamedani and Choubdar.
The officials said: “We strongly condemn the sentencing of Ms. Sedighi-Hamadani and Ms. Choubdar to death and call on authorities to stay their executions and annul their sentences as soon as possible.
“Authorities must ensure the health and well-being of both women, and promptly release them from detention.”
Concerns have been shared with the Iranian authorities including that the women may have been “arbitrarily detained, ill-treated, and prosecuted on the discriminatory basis”.
So far no response has been received.
Sedighi-Hamadani was arrested in October last year when she attempted to flee the country. She was held in a detention centre in Urumieh until December.
UN has also urged Iran’s authorities to investigate alleged ill-treatment Sedighi-Hamadani received while in detention.
“We urge Iran’s authorities to investigate the alleged ill-treatment of Ms. Sedighi-Hamadani while in detention, her enforced disappearance for 53 days, and the failure of judicial authorities to ensure due process in both women’s cases, which may also have violated their right to a fair trial among other human rights,” it said.
The experts also called on Iran to “repeal the death penalty”, and said authorities should “at a minimum reduce the scope of its application to only criminal actions that meet the threshold of the most serious crimes.
“Authorities have an international obligation to ensure that all human rights defenders in Iran can conduct peaceful and legitimate activities without fear of persecution or reprisals, including those working on sensitive issues such as sexual orientation and gender identity,” experts added.
The UN experts are continuing to closely monitor the siltation and remain in contact with Iranian authorities.