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UK: Human rights situation in Iran has worsened

NCRI – The human rights situation in Iran has worsened in the past six months, the United Kingdom has said.

In its ‘Human Rights Priority Country update report’ for January to June 2016, published on July 21, the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office said:

“There has been little change in the human rights situation in Iran between January and June 2016. In many respects, the situation has worsened, despite President Rouhani pledging to improve the rights and freedoms of the citizens of Iran when he was elected.”

“Iran’s use of the death penalty continues to be a serious concern. There were an estimated 966 executions in 2015, the highest number of executions in over 10 years, and there have been 170 recorded executions in the first six months of 2016. Iran continues to pursue the death penalty for juvenile offenders, in direct contradiction of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Iran is a signatory. Iran also routinely uses the death penalty for crimes not internationally recognised as “most serious” for which the death penalty can be used, for example drugs-related offences,” the report said.

The report also highlighted the Iranian regime’s crackdown on the use of online social media.

It said: “On freedom of expression, the crackdown on social media use came to a head in November 2015 when the cyber unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) arrested over 170 individuals, accusing them of publishing “obscene” content on instant-messaging mobile apps. Reports of some of the arrests cited “facilitating users’ access to obscene content via groups on mobile networks, publishing obscene Iranian and foreign content in text and visual format, encouraging people to commit offences, and publishing texts that insulted national figures”. After investigation, 29 individuals were detained for further questioning and 8 have been arrested, awaiting trial.”

On freedom of religion the report said:

“The Iranian constitution only formally recognises 3 religions other than Islam: Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism. Despite this, minority religions, and even non-Shi’a Muslims, face persecution and harassment in Iran. Non-recognised religions, such as the Baha’i faith, are particularly heavily persecuted. May saw the 8th anniversary of the incarceration of seven Baha’i leaders, who are sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment. A group of 24 Baha’i bloggers detained in November 2015 are still awaiting formal trial and are being held in a prison in Golestan.”

Prison conditions in Iran “continue to cause concern,” the FCO report said, “particularly at Evin Prison in Tehran. Reports indicate that prisoners face “dreadful” conditions including lack of primary facilities, violence and sexual harassment.”

“Monthly inspections of prison sections are carried out with “extreme violence”, with guards beating the inmates with batons and breaking their personal belongings. Prisoners often have no access to fresh air and sunlight, and they experience unhygienic conditions. Access to adequate and appropriate medical care for prisoners detained in Iran also continues to be a major concern.”

The report goes on to say:

“Hundreds of human rights defenders and political prisoners continue to be arrested and detained in Iran. Many have been arrested on vague political charges such as “propaganda against the regime”.

Several UK/Iranian dual nationals are currently being detained in Iran. The Iranian government does not recognise dual nationality, and on this basis it denies access to UK consular officials. We have therefore been unable to assess the wellbeing of the prisoners or confirm that they are receiving adequate legal advice and medical treatment. UK Ministers and officials have raised their concerns regarding these cases with the Iranian authorities on multiple occasions and will continue to do so.

Women do not enjoy the same rights and privileges as men in Iran. There continue to be a number of debates between various factions of the regime about the rights of women. We expect that the next round of the UN Human Rights Council will be dominated by women’s rights issues, which will raise awareness of this issue; we hope to see progress as a result.

Two proposed bills which were making their way through the Iranian parliament in 2015 caused outrage both inside and outside Iran. Human rights groups said the bills would set Iranian women back decades and reduce them to ‘baby-making machines’. The bills were drafted after the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, described family planning as an imitation of Western lifestyles, and requested that Iran’s population be doubled. As far as we are aware, these proposed bills are still being debated by parliament but we suspect that the decision to advance the bill will be taken by the new Majles in the second half of 2016.

The Bill to Increase Fertility Rates and Prevent Population Decline aims to ban all surgeries intended for permanent contraception, except in cases where there are threats to physical health. The bill would also decrease funding for birth control programmes which provide subsidies for modern contraceptives.”