UN Report: Human Rights Concerns in Iran

March 3, 2015

Iran failed to address key human rights issues in 2014, according to a new report from the U.N. Office of the Secretary General to the U.N. Human Rights Council. At least 500 people were executed between January and November 2014, many of whom were not given a fair trial. The report also highlighted Iran’s treatment of religious and ethnic minorities, citing the destruction of a Baha’i cemetery in Shiraz by the Revolutionary Guards. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif criticized the report for having “double standards.” The following are excerpts from the full report.

Death penalty
 
The Secretary-General continues to express his alarm at the increasing number of death sentences handed down and executions carried out in the Islamic Republic of Iran. United Nations human rights mechanisms have repeatedly and consistently expressed their great concern at this persistent trend, and have urged the Government to end executions. A total of 41 of the 291 recommendations made to the Islamic Republic of Iran during its second cycle of universal periodic review concerned the death penalty (A/HRC/28/12).
 
On 28 October 2014, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights publicly expressed serious concern at the large number of executions in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and called upon the authorities to immediately institute a moratorium on the death penalty. At least 500 people are believed to have been executed from January to November of 2014, with some sources suggesting a considerably higher number.
 
Situation of women
 
The Secretary-General welcomes the gains made in higher education and health for women, as well as the efforts to integrate women in the socioeconomic sphere. Some of the positive steps taken include the establishment of a foundation for entrepreneurial development of women and cooperatives to alleviate poverty and female groups that assist female heads of households and provide self-employment loans and grants to women (see A/C.3/69/9, annex). In their comments on the present report, the Iranian authorities pointed out that measures to promote the political and socioeconomic status of women had been taken. They included the appointment of women affairs advisers to all ministries and governmental organizations, the establishment of a women and children’s rights protection centre in the judiciary, the appointment of female advisers to family courts, legislative reforms that promote the status of women and the creation of special funds in the Ministry of Justice for female victims of violence.
 
Despite the above-mentioned achievements, women only account for 16 per cent of the labour force (A/69/356, para. 64). According to the Global Gender Gap Index for 2014 of the World Economic Forum, the Islamic Republic of Iran ranked no. 137 out of 142 countries. Furthermore, men earn 4.8 times more than women (A/69/356, para. 67). With regard to women in ministerial positions, the Index ranked the Islamic Republic of Iran no. 105 out of 142 countries, and there are few women in managerial or decision-making roles (A/69/356, para. 69) – despite the emphasis that article 3 of the Charter of Women’s Rights and Responsibilities in the Islamic Republic of Iran places on the right of women to equal wages, privileges and work conditions. The draft comprehensive population and family excellence plan, reportedly currently being considered by parliament, would further restrict the participation of women in the labour force. Preference for employment opportunities would be given, in order, to men with children, men without children, then lastly to women with children. Furthermore, teaching positions in higher education and research institutions would be reserved for qualified married applicants (A/69/356, para. 70).
 
Freedom of expression
 
The continued crackdown on media professionals, the pervasive restrictions on freedom of opinion and expression, including the closure of newspapers and magazines, and the ongoing monitoring, filtering and blocking of websites that carry political news and analysis raise great concern. Individuals who have expressed their views on social media or appeared in videos have been targeted and prosecuted. Some 5 million websites are currently blocked, and the Government is reportedly planning to implement “smart filtering”, which would further restrict content on the Internet (A/69/356, para. 22). The creation of a “national Internet”, announced in 2006, would further restrict users’ access to the global Internet. On 21 September, the Prosecutor General urged the Minister for Communication and Information Technology to immediately block messaging services such as Viber, Tango and WhatsApp, which, he claimed, were being used to disseminate derogatory remarks about the Supreme Leader. According to a report on the website of the news agency Khabaronline (www.khabaronline.ir), on 12 September the Head of the State cyber-police force warned that private messages on Viber and WhatsApp could be monitored and that persons circulating “insulting comments” about the Supreme Leader and other officials would be “dealt with” accordingly.
 
Freedom of assembly
 
On 31 October 2014, in his statement to the Human Rights Council, Dr. Mohammad Javad Larijani reported on the proactive role played by more than 17,000 civil society groups in the Islamic Republic of Iran in the promotion and protection of human rights. He also stated that more than 230 political parties, 400 trade unions and specialized associations, as well as 60 religiously affiliated societies, were active in the country.

Treatment of religious and ethnic minorities
 
The Secretary-General remains concerned at reports about the situation of religious and ethnic minorities, which continue to endure abuses and discrimination. The President and other high-profile officials have publicly pledged to ensure equality, to uphold freedom of belief and religion, to extend protection to all religious groups and to amend legislation that discriminates against minority groups. In their comments on the present report, the Iranian authorities pointed out that the Constitution provides equal rights to all and that no person is prosecuted on the basis of their affiliation to a particular religious or ethnic minority group.
 
Reports of incitement targeting the Baha’i faith and its adherents, and the destruction of sites of religious and cultural value, such as cemeteries, are of serious concern. In a press statement issued on 4 September 2014, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief urged the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to take urgent action to stop the destruction of a Baha’i cemetery in Shiraz by Revolutionary Guards. He stressed that attacks on Baha’i cemeteries were in violation of the freedom of religion or belief, because they were an essential part of how people exercise and manifest their right to freedom of religion or belief and their significance goes beyond their physical presence. In their comments on the present report, the Iranian authorities pointed out that burial in the cemetery had been banned since 1981 and that a substitute cemetery had been designated for Baha’is in Shiraz. They added that the destruction of the cemetery was based on public health reasons, not to denigrate the Baha’i faith.
 
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