UN expert calls for an immediate moratorium after Iran hands down death penalty to a prisoner of conscience

5 August 2015

GENEVA (5 August 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, today urged the Iranian authorities to immediately commute the death penalty recently handed down to Mohammad Ali Tehari, a well-known author of alternative medical theories practiced in Iran and abroad, and founder of Erfan-e-Halgheh (Inter-Universalism), an arts and culture institute in Tehran which promoted healing concepts.

Mr. Taheri was reportedly sentenced to death on 1 August on charges of ‘Fisad-fil-Arz’ (‘Corruption on Earth’), while he was serving a five year sentence. He was arrested in May 2011 and sentenced to five years in prison for insulting Islamic sanctities.

“It is unacceptable and a clear violation of international law for an individual to be imprisoned and condemned to death for peacefully exercising his rights to freedoms of religion and of expression,” the UN expert stressed. “Mr. Taheri has been handed a death sentence for his spiritual beliefs and teachings.”

The Special Rapporteur noted that the UN opposes the use of death penalty in all circumstances, and recalled that Iran is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights*. “The Covenant protects freedom of religion or belief and provides that countries which have not abolished the death penalty may only impose it for the most serious crimes, that is, those involving intentional killing, and only after a fair trial, among other safeguards,” he explained.

“Mr. Taheri’s actions were peaceful and constitute protected activities under international human rights law,” the human rights expert said.

“The rights protected by international law encompass the right to have and express any belief that one chooses, regardless of whether that expression is through private actions or public teachings,” he stated. Condemning a person to death for expressing their beliefs is unacceptable.”

Mr. Shaheed’s call has been endorsed by the UN Special Rapporteurs on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt; on torture, Juan E. Méndez; on extrajudicial executions, Christof Heyns; on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye; and on human rights defenders, Michel Forst.

Special Rapporteur Shaheed also renewed his call on the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to institute a moratorium on capital punishment and to demonstrate its commitment to fulfilling its obligation to respect and protect the right to life, as well as other fundamental freedoms guaranteed by national and international law.

(*) Check the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CCPR.aspx


Ahmed Shaheed (the Maldives) is a Visiting Professor at Essex University, UK; a former member of the Maldivian presidential Commission Investigating Corruption; and a foreign policy advisor to the President of the Maldives. Mr. Shaheed was Foreign Minister of the Maldives from 2005 to 2007 and from 2008 to 2010. He led the country’s efforts to sign and ratify all nine international human rights Conventions and to implement them in law and practice. He was appointed as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran in June 2011 by the UN Human Rights Council. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/IRIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Iran: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/IRIndex.aspx