UN Report on Human Rights Situation in Iran

The U.N. special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran has observed a “worrying” trend since her last report in August 2017. “Despite assurances from the Government, improvements are either not forthcoming or are being implemented very slowly and in piecemeal,” according to an advance copy of Asma Jahangir’s report to the U.N. Human Rights Council. Jahangir passed away in February 2018, shortly after sharing the report with Iran’s government, so she did not have the opportunity to consider its response. The council, however, has offered Iran the opportunity to have its comments circulated later. The following are key excerpts from the report.


Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran

Civil and political rights

Right to life

Use of the death penalty

During the last six months of 2017, 208 executions were reportedly carried out. In 2017, in total, 482 executions were reported, compared to the 530 in 2016, and the 969 in 2015. The highest number of executions were carried out for drug related offences (213), and for murder (202). In the other instances people were executed for “sexual offences” (24), robbery and armed robbery (16) and for “political offences” (2). Executions were also carried out against women (6 cases), juvenile offenders (5 cases) and also minorities (84 instances).

The Special Rapporteur notes the reduction in the number of reported executions but remains alarmed by the number of individuals who have been executed and by the number of death sentences handed down not least because of a consistently reported pattern of serious violations of the right to fair trial and denial of due process by the courts in the application of death sentences.

Amendments to the drug-trafficking law

In October 2017, the Guardian Council of the Islamic Republic of Iran approved a bill that amends the drug-trafficking law. The newly amended law, which came into force on 14 November 2017, amends the punishment for those drug offences that previously carried the death penalty or life in prison, to a prison term of up to 30 years and increases the quantity of drugs required to impose a death sentence.

The Special Rapporteur welcomes this amendment which provides for retroactive applicability, and is encouraged by reports that no related executions have been carried out since its entry into force. In January 2018, the Supreme Court announced that those sentenced to death for drug crimes will have their sentences commuted if they apply for it. Reportedly, about 5,300 persons currently on death row for drug crimes are affected; 90 per cent are first-time offenders, aged between 20 and 30. Many are economically vulnerable, and there are a large number of foreign nationals from Afghanistan and Pakistan affected, many of whom face barriers in the exercise of their rights in part due to lack of access to consular services.

The amended law however retains mandatory death sentences for a wide range of drug-related offences. The Special Rapporteur recalls that under article 6(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which the Islamic Republic of Iran has ratified, the death penalty may be applied only for the “most serious crimes” in countries that still retain capital punishment. …

Execution of juvenile offenders

The minimum age of criminal responsibility remains nine lunar years for girls and 15 lunar years for boys. The amended Islamic Penal Code retains the death penalty for boys of at least 15 lunar years of age and girls of at least nine lunar years for qisas (“retribution in kind”) or hudud crimes, such as homicide, adultery, rape, theft, armed robbery or sodomy. These laws contravene juvenile justice standards. …

According to information received, 80 individuals are presently on death row and sentenced to death for crimes committed when they were minors. In 2017, five juvenile offenders were executed. …

Right to be free from torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

Torture and other ill-treatment in detention

Consistent reports received suggest a pattern of physical or mental pressure applied upon prisoners to coerce confessions, some of which are broadcast. A recent report prepared by the Freedom from Torture organisation also found that the majority of interviewees described being interrogated and tortured concurrently, either during all or some incidences of torture and other ill-treatment, commonly with a view to extracting information about them, as well as third parties including family and friends, and to force confessions. Incidents documented include sexual violence, including rape; blunt force trauma; positional torture; burns; sharp force; electric shocks; use of water; crushing; pharmacological torture; asphyxiation; amputation; sleep deprivation; threats and humiliation; and prolonged solitary confinement, including on the basis of ethnicity, religion, political views, or having transgressed expected social norms. …

Freedom of expression and opinion, and access to information

Access to information

During the past three years, the Government reportedly closed seven million web addresses. These include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the websites of human rights and political opposition groups, amongst others. In August 2017, the Supreme Cyberspace Council introduced regulations which would increase surveillance capabilities, and require social media and messaging platforms to either move their servers to the country or face blocking orders. In October 2017, Iran’s oldest social network Cloob was shut down, and social media location sharing platforms Foursquare and Swarm were blocked. Disturbingly, in November 2017, the secretary of the Supreme Cyberspace Council suggested that users would have to “verify” their identity when logging onto the internet. …

Freedom of opinion, expression, and the press

The Special Rapporteur has continued to receive reports of the arbitrary arrest, detention, and harassment of journalists, media workers, and their families, including during interviews conducted during missions. As at August 2017, Reporters without Borders estimated 27 journalists were imprisoned, and that 94 internet users, most of whom were Telegram users, had been arrested since the beginning of 2017. The organisation further documented threats to at least 50 journalists based abroad in the year ending September 2017. In April 2017, Special Procedures mandate holders raised concerns following the arrest and detention of eight journalists, members of political groups, social activists, and film producers. In its reply, the Government denied the concerns raised. …

Freedom of association and assembly

The Special Rapporteur continues to receive reports of restrictions placed upon the freedoms of association and assembly. Human rights defenders, lawyers, students, and trade unionists have also faced restrictions and have been imprisoned for breaching national security laws. …

Situation of dual and foreign nationals

In an opinion rendered in August 2017, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention noted a pattern in the way that those affiliated with different pro-democracy institutions of the West – especially those with dual nationality – are treated in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Working Group pointed to findings of arbitrary detention with respect to several cases involving dual nationals, noting the “emerging pattern involving the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of dual nationals in Iran”. …

Right to a fair trial

In many of the cases described in the present report, and on the basis of the consistent reports which continue to be received, the Special Rapporteur is struck by the pattern of reported violations related to due process and fair trial in the Islamic Republic of Iran in particular with respect to human rights defenders, trade unionists, journalists, political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, and members of opposition, minority and religious groups, foreign and dual nationals. …

Women’s rights

The Special Rapporteur has noted some developments related to the rights and participation of women. In August 2017, President Rouhani signed an executive order on selection criteria for professional executive level staff that increased the number of women and youth in managerial positions, with a view to increasing the percentage of female managers in the executive branch to 30 per cent. In 2017, the Government appointed a woman as Deputy Minister of Petroleum and appointed its first woman Ambassador. The Government further recently informed of the lifting of restrictions placed upon female teachers to be able to work when pregnant.

The above notwithstanding, the Special Rapporteur notes that discrimination against women in the job market continues. Civil law in Iran codifies discrimination in Iran, barring them from working in certain professions except those deemed “mentally and physically suitable for women”. It further allows husbands to prevent their spouses from working in particular occupations under certain circumstances. …

Ethnic and religious minority rights

The Special Rapporteur remains concerned by reports of persistent discrimination and human rights violations of ethnic and religious minorities, in particular following her meetings with numerous representatives and members of various minority groups during her missions. A number of interlocutors described the negative impact of restrictions placed upon speaking their own language in schools in contravention of Article 15 of the Constitution; the repression of those who promote the use of their mother tongue; the low acceptance of their communities to universities; and the low level of representation in the public affairs of the nation, including in light of de facto restrictions placed upon their ability to take up senior Government posts.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender and intersex persons’ rights

Since the issuance of her last report, the Special Rapporteur has received reports, including in the course of her missions, of the continued discrimination, harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention, punishment, and denial of rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) and intersex persons in line with the concerns raised by her predecessor in 2013. Such concerns have been persistently documented by human rights groups in previous years. …

Conclusion and recommendations

The Special Rapporteur welcomes the continued engagement by the Government with her mandate through meetings and written exchanges. The Special Rapporteur further notes some developments including the adoption of amendments to drug-trafficking laws, and the follow-up on the Charter on Citizen’s Rights. In particular, the Special Rapporteur noted the positive step taken to grant Baloch citizens with nationality cards and to afford access to education to children in the province. Such developments have taken place amidst ongoing severe reports of the denial of human rights in a number of fundamental areas. As such, small gains are lost in an overall atmosphere where the State denies even very basic rights to its population. The Special Rapporteur urges the Government to demonstrate the political will to end the impunity of agents of the State who perpetrate violations of the human rights of individuals in the country.

The Special Rapporteur hopes that the Islamic Republic of Iran will build on the developments documented in this report, and translate them into improvements on the ground. In this regard, and in the spirit of sustained cooperation and dialogue, the Special Rapporteur once more expresses her readiness to visit the country upon the invitation of the Government. The Special Rapporteur believes that such a visit would be important, particularly in light of the information received and interviews conducted in preparation of this report which reflects continued serious concerns about the human rights situation in the country. …

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