The international community condemns the execution of Navid Afkari

Iranian Olympic wrestler sentenced to death after killing an intelligence officer in 2018
Manifestacion embajada Irán Londres

AFP/ JUSTIN TALLIS  -   Demonstration in front of the Iranian embassy in London on September 12, 2020 against the execution of the Iranian fighter Navid Afkari in the city of Shiraz in the south of the country and against the Iranian government

Amnesty International, government leaders and the International Olympic Committee itself had been trying for weeks to make noise to prevent the imminent execution of boxer Navid Afkari. But the efforts fell on deaf ears last Saturday when the Iranian authorities confirmed his death. Various human rights protection agencies and the IOC itself have condemned the decision taken by the Iranian authorities.

The official news agency IRNA announced that the Iranian Olympic wrestling champion was hanged in the city of Shirz (southern Iran) while serving his death sentence for killing an intelligence officer during protests in 2018.

Afkari, de 27 años, fue detenido junto a sus dos hermanos en agosto de 2018 durante unas manifestaciones en la ciudad meridional de Shiraz. La familia protestaba, junto a miles de manifestantes, por la mala situación económica en Irán y la devaluación de la moneda nacional.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has shown its "shock" after learning of Afkari's execution. In a statement, the IOC said that "it is deeply disturbing that the pleas of athletes around the world have not achieved the goal" of keeping Afkari alive.

It is not only 'the athletes of the world' who had asked for a stay of execution. Donald Trump himself posted a message on Twitter saying that he would "appreciate it very much if this young man's life was saved and he was not executed. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also called the execution "a vicious and cruel act".

Furthermore, the European Union's diplomatic office has expressed its utmost condemnation of the execution of the Iranian citizen. In a statement, they recalled that human rights are an essential part of relations between Iran and the European bloc. The office stressed that it would continue to address these cases in its contacts with Tehran.

Arbitrary transfers and disappearances as a modus operandi of the Iranian penal system

A few weeks ago a video was published in which the boxer confessed to stabbing a security officer. After Afkari's death sentence and the fears that the confession would be extracted under torture the case went viral on Twitter with the tag "#DontKillNavidAfkari", efforts that have not helped.

Amnesty International denounced in a statement that "the Iranian authorities have a long history of collaborating with state television to produce and disseminate coerced statements obtained from victims of human rights violations under torture and other ill-treatment".

On 3 September 2020, Navid Afkari was transferred from the general ward by the prison authorities to an undisclosed location. The transfer took place after a voice recording of Navid Afkari asking for help from the international community was broadcast in social media, provoking a global outcry.

He made a brief phone call to his family on 6 September and was able to say that he was being held in a wing of Adelabad prison in the city of Shiraz, which has high security and harsh conditions, before the call was cut off.

His brothers Vahid Afkari and Habib Afkari were sentenced to 56 and 24 years in prison respectively, and to 74 lashes each, in relation to the same murder and "national security" crimes related to the national protests that took place in August 2018.

Iran manifestacion Países Bajos
AFP/EVERT ELZINGA - The man holds a portrait of the Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari during a demonstration in the Dam Square in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on 13 September 2020 against his execution in the city of Shiraz in southern Iran and against the Iranian government
The death penalty remains in force in the 21st century

The countries that continue to use the death penalty within their courts are the United States, Russia, Bahrain, North Korea, Belarus, the Caribbean states, Equatorial Guinea, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Pakistan, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Singapore, Egypt, Ethiopia, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Iraq, Somalia, Uganda, Vietnam, Yemen, Bangladesh, Botswana and Saudi Arabia. 

Many of these states have not executed a death penalty order for a long time. According to Amnesty International, in 2019, most executions reportedly took place in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Egypt, in that order.

China remains the world's largest executor, although the true extent of the use of the death penalty in that country is not known, as the data is classified as a state secret. Excluding China, 86 percent of known executions took place in only four countries: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq and Iran.

Gradually, the numbers are decreasing. Amnesty International recorded 2,307 new death sentences in 56 countries in 2019, down slightly from 2,531 in 2018.

Amnesty International maintains that the death penalty is a violation of human rights and in particular of the right to life and the right not to be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. These two rights are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948 by the United Nations.