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UN Secretary General’s latest report on human rights abuses in Iran


NCRI – United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in September 2016 presented his latest report on the “Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran” to the UN General Assembly highlighting the abuses carried out by the regime. 

The report ‘A/71/374’stated:

Since the issuance of the most recent report of the Secretary-General to the Human Rights Council on the subject (A/HRC/31/26), human rights violations have continued at an alarming rate. In particular, a significant number of executions took place, including of individuals who were juveniles at the time of the alleged offence; corporal punishment, including flogging, persisted; the treatment of journalists and human rights defenders remained of concern, as raised by several United Nations human rights mechanisms; and religious and ethnic minorities continued to face persecution and prosecution. 

On 19 October 2015, the Secretary-General expressed serious concerns about the alarming rate of executions in the Islamic Republic of Iran, He reiterated his call upon the Government to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty. That call was echoed on several occasions by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and special procedures of the Human Rights Council. The Secretary-General regrets that the Government has not taken any measures to halt executions or instituted a moratorium on the death penalty. 

Reports of execution by hanging of women and foreign nationals continued to be received. Between January 2015 and June 2016, at least 15 women were reportedly executed, mostly for drug-related offences and murder, and at least 20 foreign nationals (mainly from Afghanistan) were executed while more than 1,200 remained on death row (see A/70/304). 

Over 50 executions were carried out in public in 2015 and at least 10 during the first half of 2016. 

The report also referred to the execution of minors in Iran, stating: 

In his report to the thirty-first session of the Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran referred to the execution of at least 73 juvenile offenders between 2005 and 2015 (A/HRC/31/69). He noted that, as of March 2016, at least 160 juvenile offenders were reportedly on death row. 

Highlighting the regime’s use of draconian tortures against political prisoners, the UN Secretary General added: 

The Secretary-General is concerned about the ongoing trend of using threats of torture, or actual torture, to extract forced confessions or other self-incriminatory evidence from prisoners or individuals detained by the police, especially those incarcerated for political ends. Such confessions are often used as admissible evidence in court proceedings. 

The state of prisons in the Islamic Republic of Iran remains a major concern, owing to extensive overcrowding and high incarceration rates. … Extremely limited living space, poor quality food, an insufficient number of toilets and showers and inadequate heating are all common features in many detention facilities. 

The report further highlighted the lack of access to adequate health care for Iranian political prisoners: 

People deprived of their liberty, particularly political prisoners, continue to receive inadequate access to health care. In many cases, medical treatment is reportedly withheld as a form of punishment to a degree so severe as to constitute torture. On 27 April 2016, a group of Special Rapporteurs publicly expressed concern at the situation of over a dozen political prisoners at risk of death owing to their worsening health conditions and the continued refusal by the authorities to provide them with medical treatment. 

The recurrence of flogging remains a cause for serious concern. The Islamic Penal Code, which came into force in 2013, provides for the punishment of flogging for insulting the prophets, sodomy, rape, adultery and alcohol consumption. There are reports that that punishment has also been meted-out for not fasting, not respecting the Islamic dress code, participating in protests, holding mixed-gender parties and shaking hands with an unrelated person of the opposite sex. 

The Committee against Torture, the Human Rights Committee and special procedures mandate holders have repeatedly voiced concerns about the use of flogging, highlighting in particular its use against women, and called for its abolition. 

The report pointed out that the Iranian regime continues to hand down stoning sentences: 

On 20 January 2016, in a joint communication, a group of special procedure mandate holders expressed concerns at the imminent risk of execution by stoning of Fariba Khalegi, who was arrested in November 2013 on suspicion of involvement in the murder of her husband. 

The United Nations human rights mechanisms hold the view that execution by stoning constitutes a form of torture or other cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment or punishment. The Human Rights Committee has also concluded that stoning to death for adultery is a punishment that is grossly disproportionate to the nature of the crime. 

Referring to the lack of freedom of expression in Iran, the report said: 

The Secretary-General is particularly concerned about the persistent pattern of arbitrary arrests and convictions of journalists and online activists. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Islamic Republic of Iran has imprisoned the third greatest number of journalists of any country in the world. 

The Secretary-General deplores the increasing persecution of social media activists. In May 2016, the authorities arrested at least eight Instagram users, most of whom were leading models in the Iranian fashion industry, for “un-Islamic acts” and “promoting Western promiscuity”. 

An Iranian cybercrime surveillance programme entitled “Operation Spider 2”, which tracks and cracks down on social media users, has so far resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of several Internet users on charges such as “insulting Islam”, “publishing immoral and corrupt material” and “encouraging individuals to commit immoral acts”. 

The most recent directive issued by the country’s Supreme Council of Cyberspace, in May 2016, requires social messaging applications to store user data on Iranian servers. That directive allows the authorities to have access to the 20 million Iranian accounts associated with the Telegram messaging application, strengthening the already stringent censorship regime with respect to Internet traffic. Telegram, the use of which comprises more than 50 per cent of weekly Internet traffic in the country, has faced restrictions, with over 50 channels containing messages to the public being blocked after authorities complained about the presence of pornographic content. Furthermore, the judiciary retains the power to block applications in the future. 

Facebook and Twitter continued to be entirely blocked for domestic users, and the authorities arbitrarily ban content under the justification of protecting families and Islamic culture. 

However, refugees continue to face inequality, discrimination and mistreatment. Only refugees with work permits issued through the Amayesh system are able to work. Many barriers to marriage between Iranians and undocumented refugees remain, with women being unable to transmit citizenship to their children and their non-citizen spouses. Children born out of wedlock cannot obtain birth certificates or travel documents and are automatically barred from accessing public services. 

The majority of provinces have imposed residency restrictions on refugees. In July 2016, authorities in Yazd Province warned citizens not to rent houses to non‑native Iranians, in particular Afghan refugees, and ordered them to evict any such residents from their houses within 15 days. 

The forced deportation of refugees remains of concern. Between March 2014 and March 2015, 216,923 individuals, including 1,772 children, were reportedly forcibly deported from the Islamic Republic of Iran. Fifty-five per cent of those children were unaccompanied. In most cases, deportees have not been given an eviction notice and have been forcefully evicted from the country, leaving behind belongings and properties. Afghan deportees often face severe conditions in overcrowded detention centres that lack drinking water and are often subjected to mistreatment, physical abuse, exploitation and harassment. 

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders expressed serious concerns about the continuing pattern of arbitrary arrest, detention and prosecution of human rights defenders as an attempt to prevent them from engaging in legitimate and peaceful human rights activities … . Human rights activists and lawyers are routinely subjected to ill-treatment, including prolonged solitary confinement, degrading conditions in detention, psychological and physical torture and denial of urgent medical treatment. They are often convicted on questionable charges and given excessive prison sentences after trials that do not meet the basic requirement of the right to due process under international human rights law. 

The sentencing of human rights activists illustrates the continuing shrinking space for human rights defenders and other civil society actors. The Secretary-General urges the authorities to stop targeting human rights defenders and other civil society actors who are peacefully exercising fundamental freedoms and to open up space for those individuals to conduct their essential work freely and safely. 

The UN Secretary General further referred to the appalling situation of women in Iran under the mullahs’ regime: 

Violations of the rights to freedom of movement and expression and the rights to health and work seriously affect women, as do the practices of underage marriage, killings in the name of honour and female genital mutilation. According to reports, 60 per cent of women in the Islamic Republic of Iran experience domestic violence (see A/HRC/31/69). According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2015, 21 per cent of Iranian women 19 years of age and under were married. 

The Civil Code also requires women to be submissive to men and specifies that they may lose their rights, including to maintenance, if they fail to respond to the sexual needs of their husbands. 

Senior government leaders have consistently made remarks that reinforce the traditional cultural roles for women. On several occasions, the Supreme Leader commented on the role of women in society and stressed that women’s greatest responsibility is to bear children and that women’s employment is not a primary concern of the country. That widespread attitude reflects the fact that only around 17 per cent of women between the ages of 15 and 64 are active in the labour market. 

The report also highlighted the regime’s mistreatment of individuals belonging to religious and ethnic minorities: 

The special procedures mandate holders and treaty bodies have referred to the Baha’i as the most severely persecuted religious minority in the Islamic Republic of Iran, with its members subjected to multiple forms of discrimination that affect their enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights. 

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, access to education at technical and vocational universities and non-governmental educational institutions is restricted according to one’s religion. 

Discrimination and persecution of other minority groups also remain prevalent. Ethnic minority groups, including Arabs, Azeris, Baluch and Kurds, face discrimination in gaining access to university studies, employment, business licences and economic aid, getting permission to publish books and exercising their civil and political rights. … The Government also discriminates against Azeris by prohibiting the use of the Azeri language in schools and through harassment of Azeris. 

Given the serious human rights situation in the country, the Secretary-General is disappointed that the current United Nations Development Assistance Framework for the period 2017-2021 lacks reference to human rights and gender equality.  

In his recommendations, Secretary Ban said:

The Secretary-General remains deeply troubled by reports of executions, floggings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, unfair trials, denial of access to medical care and possible torture and ill-treatment. He is also concerned about continued restrictions of public freedoms and the related persecution of civil society actors, the persistence of discrimination against women and minorities and conditions of detention. 

The Secretary-General reiterates his call upon the Government to introduce a moratorium on the use of the death penalty and to prohibit executions of juvenile offenders and those who were below 18 years of age at the time the offence was committed. 

The Secretary-General urges the Government to create space for civil society actors to exercise their legitimate right to peacefully carry out their activities in safety and freedom, without fear of arrest, detention or prosecution.

The Secretary-General urges the Government to remove all discriminatory provisions in legislation that affect women, in accordance with international standards.

The Secretary-General urges the Government to take prompt steps to protect the rights of all persons belonging to religious and ethnic minorities and to remove and address all forms of discrimination against them.