“We strongly condemn the sentencing of Ms. Sedighi-Hamadani and Ms. Choubdar to death and call on authorities to stay their executions and annul their sentences as soon as possible,” they said in a statement.

‘Corruption on earth’

Iran’s legal system explicitly prohibits homosexuality, which under the country’s penal code is punishable by death.

The women were convicted on charges of “corruption on earth” and “trafficking”.

While the judicial decision and sentencing order are not public, the experts were informed that the charges concerned speech and actions in support of the human rights of LGBT persons who face discrimination in Iran based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Reports revealed that the trafficking charges were related to the women’s efforts to assist persons at risk to leave Iranian territory.

“Iranian judicial authorities prosecuted human rights defender Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani and Elham Choubdar in August 2022 and notified them on 1 September 2022 that they had been convicted and sentenced to death by the Islamic Revolution Court of Urumieh,” the statement read.

Concern over defenders’ treatment

The experts have expressed concerns to the Iranian Government that the two women may have been arbitrarily detained, ill-treated, and prosecuted on the discriminatory basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, including criminalization of LGBT people whose human rights they were supporting through speech and peaceful action.

To date, no response has been received.

“Authorities must ensure the health and well-being of both women, and promptly release them from detention.”

Mahsa Amini protests

The appeal comes as the country is engulfed in protest over the death of Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by so-called morality police, on 13 September, for allegedly violating strict dress codes.

Demonstrations on behalf of the 22-year-old woman who died in police custody have been met with violence and communications restrictions affecting phones and internet service,

Arrests and detention

Members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard arrested Ms. Sedighi-Hamedani on 27 October 2021 near the Iranian border with Türkiye.

From October to December last year, she was held in a detention centre in Urumieh where she was forcibly disappeared for nearly two months following her arrest and subjected to abuse and discrimination.

“We urge Iran’s authorities to investigate the alleged ill-treatment of Ms. Sedighi-Hamadani while in detention, her enforced disappearance for 53 days, and the failure of judicial authorities to ensure due process in both women’s cases, which may also have violated their right to a fair trial, among other human rights,” the UN experts said.

Ms. Choubdar was arrested at a late but unknown date.

End the death penalty 

The experts called on Iran to “repeal the death penalty, and at a minimum reduce the scope of its application to only criminal actions that meet the threshold of the most serious crimes”.

“Authorities have an international obligation to ensure that all human rights defenders in Iran can conduct peaceful and legitimate activities without fear of persecution or reprisals, including those working on sensitive issues such as sexual orientation and gender identity,” the 22 signatories said.

About the experts 

The UN experts are closely monitoring the situation and remain in contact with Iranian authorities.

Click here to see which experts endorsed the statement. 

Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not paid for their work.