By Dennis McMillan
Published: November 8, 2007
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) has learned that Makvan Mouloodzadeh, a 21-year old citizen of Iran of Kurdish origin from the city of Paveh in the Western province of Kermanshah, has been sentenced to death by the government. Makvan has been convicted of multiple counts of anal rape and sentenced to execution for crimes committed when he was 13 years old. On Nov. 5, IGLHRC called for an international response to stop this execution.
According to IGLHRC, imposing the death penalty for crimes committed by juveniles is prohibited under international law as well as by the Iranian legal system. In addition, IGLHRC calls on the international community to condemn the use of the death penalty as a punishment for any sex or morality-related crime, whether consensual or non-consensual, as unnecessarily extreme. In this case, since none of the alleged victims ever claimed to have been raped, and all of them admitted to the court that their initial accounts of sexual intercourse with Makvan were false and had been acquired under coercion, IGLHRC says the imposition of the death penalty is especially objectionable.
As an organization dedicated to defending the rights of sexual minorities worldwide, IGLHRC objects to any law, policy or ruling that penalizes consensual homosexual relationships among adults.
The District Attorney’s office issued an order for Makvan’s arrest on Oct. 1, 2006, after the local office of the Intelligence Service received a complaint from Makvan’s cousin claiming, in rather vague language, that Makvan had “victimized” him when both were minors. During subsequent investigations, the cousin also claimed that Makvan had engaged in homosexual sex with other people when he was 13 years old. When these individuals were brought in for questioning, each confessed to having had homosexual sex with Makvan. But according to media reports, none of these individuals claimed to be a victim of rape. During the interrogation process, Makvan was forced to confess to one case of sodomy while he was a middle school student. Makvan’s trial took place at the local branch of the Criminal Court in Kermanshah City. However, several key witnesses refused to appear in court, and the three witnesses who did appear before the judge each retracted their earlier testimony, claiming to have lied to the authorities under duress.
Makvan also told the court that his confession was made under coercion and pleaded not guilty. But the judge refused to accept the witnesses’ retractions. Although it is standard practice in the Iranian legal system to send alleged rape victims for a medical examination to check for evidence of sexual crimes, including sodomy, the judge did not require this procedure in this case, which could have potentially proved the innocence of the defendant.
In the absence of adequate evidence, the judge used an Iranian legal principle known as “Knowledge of the Judge,” to declare that he was certain Makvan had raped his victims. IGLHRC explains that according to the Iranian legal code, when there is not enough evidence to convict a defendant of sexual crimes, the judge may use his knowledge (in a deductive process based on the evidence that already exists) to determine whether the crime took place or not.
The judge found Makvan guilty of full penetrative homosexual sex (ighab) and sentenced him to death on June 7, 2007. The following month, Makvan’s lawyer lodged an appeal with the Iranian Supreme Court. In a ruling on Aug. 1, 2007, the Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s decision.
Makvan is currently in Kermanshah’s city jail. Since the execution order has already been issued by the Attorney General’s office, he is in danger of being the victim of a public hanging at any time.
IGLHRC states that since Makvan was born on March 31, 1986, this fact made him a minor at the time of the crime back in 1999. IGLHRC cites Article 6(5) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) stating, “[A] sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age.” The Iranian parliament ratified the ICCPR in 1975 and has not subsequently passed any legislation to nullify this treaty. While International Law prohibits the execution of minors, Iranian law is equally clear-cut on the subject.
According to Article 49 of the Islamic Penal Code, minors, if found guilty, are free from criminal responsibility. Note 1 of Article 49 stipulates that minors are those individuals who have not reached what Islam considers to be the age of discretion. The 1991 Amendment of Article 1210(1) of the Iranian Civil Code declares that the Islamic age of discretion is 15 full lunar years of age for boys and 9 full lunar years of age for girls.
Moreover, says IGLHRC, Article 111 of the Islamic Penal Code states, “Sodomy is only punishable by death if both parties are adults and of sound mind.” Article 113 of the Islamic Penal Code declares: “If a minor sodomizes another minor, both should be punished by up to 74 lashes, unless one of them is forced to do so.” Since the alleged sodomy happened when the defendant and his alleged partners were 13 years old, hence IGLHRC insists the death penalty should not be applicable in this case.