UN sees ‘worrying picture’ of rights violations in Iran

The UN said the human rights situation in Iran has worsened since the previous report on the country.
Thursday 08/03/2018
Iranian women wait for a bus in Tehran. (AFP)
Iranian women wait for a bus in Tehran. (AFP)

LONDON - The United Nations said the human rights situation in Iran has worsened since the international body’s previous report on the country, which had given assurances it would make improvements.

“The Special Rapporteur [Asma Jahangir] has observed a worrying picture developing in the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran since the issuance of her last report in August 2017,” read the UN report.

“Despite assurances from the government, improvements are either not forthcoming or are being implemented very slowly and in piecemeal,” it added.

Jahangir, who drafted the report, died in February. Her findings were to be debated at the UN Human Rights Council.

The report mentioned violations in the legal process; arbitrary arrests; executions, including of juveniles; restrictions on freedom of expression; torture and other ill-treatment in detention; as well as discrimination against women, religious and ethnic minorities.

There was a slight reduction in the number of executions but Iran still executes hundreds of people every year. The report said there were 482 executions reported in 2017, compared to 530 in 2016 and 969 in 2015.

The report said the United Nations is alarmed by the number of death sentences “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.”

The UN report disapproved of the minimum age of criminal responsibility in Iran, which is 9 years for girls and 15 years for boys. Iranian laws contravene with international standards, which prohibit the execution of people under 18 at the time of the offence, regardless of the circumstances and nature of the crime committed.

The report noted that 80 individuals on death row were sentenced to death for crimes committed when they were minors.

The United Nations noted that detainees appear to be systematically subjected to torture and abuse, including sexual violence.

“Consistent reports received suggest a pattern of physical or mental pressure applied upon prisoners to coerce confessions, some of which are broadcast,” the report said.

“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,” it said.

The conditions of people in detention also came under fire in the report. They include “inadequate accommodation; imprisonment in cramped cells; inadequate provision of food and water; unhygienic conditions; and restricted access to toilet facilities.”

The United Nations decried Tehran’s crackdown on free expression, citing Iran’s reported closure of 7 million web addresses, including “Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the websites of human rights and political opposition groups, amongst others.”

Media workers, including those with the BBC’s Persian service, have been harassed. “Some were arbitrarily arrested, detained and subjected to travel bans,” the report said.

Iranian trade unions are intimidated by the Iranian authorities.

“In this regard [the UN special rapporteur] has previously reported on the conviction and imprisonment of teachers, bus drivers and general worker unions, on the basis of charges relating to, inter alia, national security, propaganda and disrupting public order and peace,” said the report.

Former presidential candidates were not exempt from having their rights violated.

“Former presidential candidates, Mssrs Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi and Mr Mosavi’s wife Zahra Rahnavard were under house arrest in the absence of charges or a trial despite assurances by President [Hassan] Rohani in 2013 and on subsequent occasions that they would be released. They have been deprived of their liberty since 2011,” the report noted.

The United Nations said that discrimination against women in the work place continues. This is in addition to the presence of “repressive and discriminatory rules concerning the dress code for women and girls [that] continue to be enforced. Women who do not wear a hijab that conforms to the interpretation of modesty can be sentenced to up to two months in prison or be fined.”

The report highlighted the United Nations’ concern over child marriages in Iran.

“At present, girls can be married as young as 9 with the permission of the court. The UN Children Fund (UNICEF) reported that approximately 40,000 children under the age of 15 years are married annually and that approximately 17% of girls are married before the age of 18,” the report said. “The number is likely to be higher, as thousands of underage marriages are not registered.”

The United Nations said it remained concerned by reports of “persistent discrimination and human rights violations of ethnic and religious minorities,” including the Yarsan, Baha’i, Kurdish and Baloch communities.

“Many [Baloch] do not have official proof of citizenship and therefore face multiple challenges including exclusion of access to state social assistance including welfare payments, health care and education. Additionally, they face challenges in obtaining utilities such as water, electricity and phone service, and are at risk of statelessness,” said the report.

“The special rapporteur is also deeply concerned by reports of individuals from the Kurdish community having been persecuted, arrested and sentenced to death for their political affiliation or beliefs,” the report said.