November 1, 2012

New Reports Spotlight Iran Human Rights Abuses, Urge Direct Dialogue

Special Rapporteur Ahmed ShaheedWashington, DC – “On the whole, the human rights situation in the country remains disturbing,” reported Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, presenting his 2012 report to the General Assembly’s Third Committee last week.   

The report provides a window into the human rights situation inside of Iran, finding that the Iranian government continues to systematically violate the rights of Iranians. Shaheed says his report is meant to help constructively work towards the resolution of human rights issues in Iran and he “remain[s] optimistic about the potential for engagement with Iran.” 

Also last week, United for Iran released a report, “Toward a Human Rights and Democracy Agenda for Iran,” that assesses the international response to human rights violations in Iran since 2009. The report criticizes the “feeble” international response to human rights violations in Iran and urges for a more consistent approach, including applying targeted pressure and forming a contact group to engage in direct dialogue with Iran to address the human rights situation. United for Iran also calls on the U.S. and EU to elevate the Iran human rights portfolio to the level of other issues concerning Iran policy, instead of allowing human rights to be subordinated to the nuclear issue. 

The UN Special Rapporteur’s report raises Iran’s use of the death penalty as a particular concern, including juvenile executions and the use of capital punishment in drug and adultery cases. According to the report, those executed often are not given access to due process. Shaheed notes that Iran’s revised Penal Code omits stoning as a form of capital punishment, but warns that judges still have discretion on this matter so there remains a risk of death by stoning in adultery cases. 

The UN report also finds that human rights defenders in Iran are being subjected to solitary confinement, torture, long-term exile and extensive prison sentences. Religious and ethnic minorities, while assured equal rights in the Iranian constitution, face discrimination and violations of their human rights regularly, according to the report. And women face systematic discrimination, with the report noting that a woman’s testimony in court is regarded as half that of a man, girls are criminally culpable at age 9 while boys are not until they are 14, and there are reports of child marriages involving girls under the age of 10.

Shaheed also addresses press and Internet freedom. Journalists, human rights activists and bloggers, the report says, are often charged with what amounts to sedition. Foreign email services have been blocked periodically, and there are growing concerns that Iran could try to create a “national internet.” A new piece of legislation on cybercrime compels computer users to track their own history, as well as compelling cybercafés to record their users and their users’ histories according tot the report.

In addition to abuses by Iranian officials, the Special Rapporteur notes that human rights defenders and non-governmental organizations have “raised serious concerns about the effect of sanctions on human rights.” United for Iran’s report addresses the issue as well, specifically pointing to shortages in medicine, rising unemployment, and sanctions that “inhibit of US efforts to promote internet freedom, secure communication and access to information by requiring stringent and unclear licensing requirements.” The report calls for the US and EU specifically to ensure sancitons are not obstructing humanitarian goods for Iranians.

Shaheed attributes Iran’s human rights violations to “legal incongruities, insufficient adherence to the rule of law, and the existence of widespread impunity.” He states that the Iranian constitution, while containing incongruities, has a sufficient framework on which to build a legitimate system of human rights assurances. He recommends Iran work to correct these incongruities and to bring individuals and agencies that currently act with impunity under the rule of law.




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