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IRAN: Rights groups call on UN to investigate executions based on sexual orientation

ANKARA, 30 Nov 2005 (IRIN) - Human rights groups fighting for gay rights have called on the United Nations to act on reports of executions based on sexual orientation in Iran.

The July public execution of Mahmoud Asgari, 16, and Ayaz Marhoni, 18, drew sharp criticism of Iran's legal system Iranian Student's News Agency (ISNA)

"We are against the death penalty on any grounds, however, I find it particularly abhorrent that these executions were reportedly carried out based on people's sexual orientation and in the name of Islam," Kursad Kahramananoglu, head of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), the oldest and only membership-based lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organisation in the world, said from Istanbul.

"The UN has not done enough on this issue across the board," he said, calling for a worldwide ban on the death penalty.

He is not alone. In November the US-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLRHC) cited new reports from Iran that two young men who had been hanged in public in the northern city of Gorgan may have been executed because of their sexual orientation, prompting the IGLRC to call on UN human rights experts to investigate such cases, while demanding government accountability for any violation of human rights.

But according to Kahramananoglu, getting reliable information out of the country has proven difficult, while the IGLHRC is following up on information circulating that 92 hangings and death sentences had taken place in Iran within the past four and a half months alone, a 16 November statement by the group said.

"We are alarmed at these latest hangings and call for an immediate investigation by the UN and national human rights monitors," stated Paula Ettelbrick, executive director of IGLHRC. "It's clear that a pattern is emerging in which young men are executed as couples and that the crimes they allegedly committed always involve some form of sexual assault of another male."

Public executions, in and of themselves, are considered to be cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under international law and the IGLHRC has long documented specific conditions in Iran involving clear violations of human rights law, the statement read.

Earlier this year, rights groups the world over were outraged when two teenagers: Mahmoud Asgari, 16, and Ayaz Marhoni, 18, were publically hanged on 19 July in Mashad, provincial capital of Iran's northeastern Khorasan province, on charges of homosexuality.

"To execute people simply because they are gay or have had gay sex just isn't acceptable in the 21st century," David Allison, spokesman for the London-based LGBT advocacy group Outrage, said at the time.

Prior to the boys' executions, the teenagers were reportedly held in prison for 14 months and severely beaten with 228 lashes. The length of their detention suggests that they committed the so-called offences more than a year earlier, when they were possibly around the age of 16, a statement by Outrage explained.

"When the first reported executions came to our attention in July, it was nearly impossible to determine whether the two men were executed because of their sexual orientation," continued Ettelbrick. "But this pattern that we have identified, along with the extraordinary increase of public death sentences being carried out under this new government, requires a response not just from the global LGBT community but from all human rights advocates."

IGLHRC is joining with Al-Fatiha, the international LGBT Muslim organisation, in its call for European governments to seek further details on these recent executions, and in its support for a resolution from Canada introduced at the UN expressing concerns over human rights violations in Iran.

IGLHRC will also continue to strategise with Al-Fatiha, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, ILGA and Gay Association, and other human rights groups on how to influence world opinion and international human rights experts to demand that Iran honours its commitments under international law to suspend use of the death penalty, the statement added.

According to ILGA, Iran is one of at least seven countries today which still retain capital punishment for homosexuality. Others include Mauritania, Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The situation with regard to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is unclear.

The above article comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2004

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