UN Report: Human Rights Undermined

October 27, 2014

            On October 23, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran released a new report detailing violations in the Islamic Republic. The report’s introduction stated:

             Various laws, policies and institutional practices continue to undermine the conditions needed for the realization of the fundamental rights guaranteed by international and national law. Some draft laws also appear to further undermine the rights to freedom of expression and association and markedly compound discrimination against women by further eroding their protection from forced marriage and rights to education, work and equal wages.

             But Iran rejected the Special Rapporteur’s conclusions, referring to them as “unjust” and “false.” The government released a 37-page response to a draft version of the report claiming it has “taken numerous steps to promote and improve situation of human rights at national and international levels.” The following are excerpts from the latest U.N. report.
 
Civil and Political Rights
 
            Between July 2013 and June 2014, at least 852 individuals were reportedly executed, representing an alarming increase in the number of executions in relation to the already-high rates of previous years. The Government also continues to execute juvenile offenders. In 2014 alone, eight individuals believed to be under 18 years of age at the time of their alleged crimes were reportedly executed.
 
            The new Islamic Penal Code that entered into force in 2013 now omits references to apostasy, witchcraft and heresy, but continues to allow for juvenile executions and retains the death penalty for activities that do not constitute “most serious crimes” in line with the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty (see Economic and Social Council resolution 1984/50). They include adultery, recidivist alcohol use, drug possession and trafficking and some crimes resulting in convictions for moharebeh (commonly translated as “enmity against God”, but translated by the Government as a crime in which “a person brandishes or points a weapon at members of the public to kill, frighten and coerce them”) or mofsed fel-arz (corruption on Earth).
 
            The execution of individuals for exercising their protected rights, including of freedom of expression and association, is deeply troubling. Members of ethnic minority groups, in particular those espousing ethnocultural, linguistic or minority religious rights, appear to be disproportionately charged with moharebeh and mofsed
fel-arz, sometimes seemingly for exercising their rights to peaceful expression and  association.
 
Freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
 
            Continuing reports regarding the use of psychological and physical torture to solicit confessions indicate the widespread and systematic use of such practices. Of the 24 Iranian refugees in Turkey who provided testimony for the present report, 20 reported torture and ill-treatment and 16 psychological abuse, such as prolonged solitary confinement, mock executions and the threat of rape, along with physical abuse, including severe beatings, use of suspension and pressure positions, electroshock and burnings. Reports of amputation and corporal punishment (e.g. flogging), which are considered incompatible with article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, were also received.
 
Domestic Violence
 
            Some 66 per cent of Iranian women have reportedly experienced domestic violence. The legislative framework remains insufficient to combat such violence. In addition, inadequate social service provisions challenge the State’s ability to provide safety and redress for victims.
 
            For example, laws continue to explicitly allow for non-consensual sexual relations in marriage.
 
Freedom of expression and the right to information
 
            At least 35 journalists are currently in detention in the country. Reports continue to allege harassment, interrogations and surveillance of many others.
 
            Between June and August 2014 alone, several journalists, including Saba Azarpeik, Mehdi Khalazi, Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, Jason Rezaian and Yeganeh Salehi, were arrested and three others, Reyhaneh Tabatabaei, Mahnaz Mohammadi and Marzieh Rasoulis, were summoned to begin serving prison sentences. Several others, including Seraj Miramadi, Farideh Shahgholi and Hossein Nourani Nejad, received new prison sentences during the period.
 
            Recent cases regarding several other Internet users underscore a pattern of continuing general repression of freedom of expression and, in some cases, freedom of movement. In May 2014, eight Facebook commenters were sentenced to a combined 123 years in prison for blasphemy, insulting the Supreme Leader and spreading propaganda against the system, among other charges, for criticizing government policies, supporting political protests and participating in social satire and other alleged activities on Facebook.
 
            Severe content restrictions, intimidation and prosecution of Internet users and limitations on Internet access through throttling and filtering persist, however. Some
5 million websites remain blocked. The top 500 blocked websites include many dedicated to the arts, social issues, news and those ranked in the top tiers of popularity nationally.
 
Early and forced marriage
 
            The legal age of marriage for girls in the country is 13 years, but girls as young as 9 years of age may be married with permission from a court. In 2002, the Guardian Council rejected legislative attempts to increase the minimum age to 15 years.
 
At least 48,580 girls between 10 and 14 years of age were married in 2011, 48,567 of whom were reported to have had at least one child before they reached15 years of age. Some 40,635 marriages of girls under 15 years of age were also registered between March 2012 and March 2013, of which more than 8,000 involved men who were at least 10 years older.
 
Freedom of religion
 
            The Government accepted nine recommendations regarding religious rights during the consideration of the country by the Working Group on the Universal
Periodic Review, including commitments to upholding freedom of belief and religion, extending protection to all religious groups, combating incitement to religious hatred and amending all legislation that discriminates against minority groups (see A/HRC/14/12). No progress in this regard has been observed, however.
 
            As at June 2014, at least 300 minority religious practitioners were reportedly imprisoned, including three active members of the Yarsan faith, in addition to members of newer spiritual movements.
 
Click here for the full text of the U.N. report.
 
Click here for Iran's response.