Dutch Officials Should Not Force Choice
Between Silence and Death
(Brussels, March 8, 2006) - Dutch Immigration
Minister Rita Verdonk's threat to end a six-month moratorium on deporting
lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) asylum-seekers back to
Iran rests on serious
misunderstandings of Iranian law, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to
Verdonk. Deporting LGBT people to Iran would violate the Netherlands' obligation to protect
people from torture, ill-treatment, and possible execution.
The ban on deportations was
imposed in September 2005, after reports of executions in Iran for
homosexual conduct. In a February 28 letter to the Tweede Kamer (Second Chamber), the main
house of parliament, Minister Verdonk declared her intention to end the
moratorium. She stated that, "It appears that there are no cases of an execution
on the basis of the sole fact that someone is homosexual... For homosexual men
and women it is not totally impossible to function in society, although they
should be wary of coming out of the closet too openly."
"Men and women suspected of
homosexual conduct in Iran face the threat of execution,"
said Scott Long, director of Human
Rights Watch's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program. "We have
documented brutal floggings imposed by courts as punishment, and torture and
ill-treatment, including sexual abuse, in police custody."
Article 111 of the Code of
Islamic Punishments, Iran's criminal code, states that lavat - sexual intercourse between men -
"is punishable by death." Under Articles 121-122 of the Penal Code, Tafkhiz - non-penetrative "foreplay"
between men - is punishable by 100 lashes for each partner and by death on the
fourth conviction. Article 123 of the Penal Code further provides that, "If two
men who are not related by blood lie naked under the same cover without any
necessity," each one will receive 99 lashes. Articles 127 to 134 stipulate that
the punishment for sexual intercourse between women is 100 lashes; if the
offence is repeated three times, the punishment is execution.
"The legal machinery of
persecution is oiled, ready, and operating in Iran, and the Netherlands has a binding and
absolute legal obligation not to send people back to face it," said Long.
Human Rights Watch said that the European
Convention on Human Rights prohibits the Netherlands from deporting a person
who may be at risk of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The
Court last year ruled that the Netherlands could not proceed with a deportation
to Eritrea due to such a real risk. The
Court has also held that diplomatic assurances cannot
justify returns to countries where torture is "endemic," or a "recalcitrant and enduring
problem." The United
Nations Convention against Torture specifically states, in Article 3, that
"No State shall expel, return
("refouler") or extradite a person to another State
where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of
being subjected to torture."
It also requires that "for
the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent
authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations, including where
applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of
gross, flagrant, or mass violations of human rights."
Minister Verdonk's statement has
sparked an uproar in the Netherlands, with the opposition
calling for a full debate in parliament. In her letter, Minister Verdonk also
indicated that religious minorities could avoid persecution in
Iran by remaining undercover. "Only
when Christians and converted Muslims [in Iran]
present themselves with their faith too actively," the letter said, "can they
come to the negative attention of the authorities."
"Sexual orientation and religious
belief are deeply felt parts of the human personality," said Long. "Silencing
oneself is not an acceptable price for staying alive."
For previous Human Rights Watch
comments on returns policies instituted by Minister Verdonk, please see "Netherlands:
Safety of Failed Asylum Seekers at Risk - Planned
Deportations Would Put Thousands in Danger, Violate International
To read Human Rights Watch's letter to
Immigration Minister Verdonk, please visit:
... Payvand News - 3/8/06 ... --