A Brief Summary of Major Human Rights Violations in Iran
Executions and Stoning
Since last year’s disputed Presidential election, the Iranian government has instituted a hyped-up campaign of executions, virtually all of which have followed unfair trials. Amnesty International estimates that Iran executed 388 people in 2009, 112 of them in the two months following the election. In 2005, when Ahmadinejad took office, Iran executed 86 people. Iran executes the highest number of people per capita in the world, including juvenile offenders in contravention of international law.
At least nine political prisoners have been executed in secret since last year. Another eleven protestors have been sentenced to death, as authorities aim to show citizens that further dissent will be punished in the harshest manner.
Stoning, a form of torture, is a legal punishment for adultery in Iran. The application of death sentences according to the law puts women, non-Muslims, and other vulnerable groups at risk. In addition to adultery, drinking alcohol and homosexuality are also punisheable by death.
Official reports by the government say that 44 people have been killed during street protests since the election, but civil society sources estimate that at least one hundred people died. Many of these victims were deliberately murdered by security and paramilitary forces.
Torture is routine, systematic, and widespread, and serves a judicial system in which the main evidence in criminal convictions is a confession. The common use of solitary and incommunicado confinement and the denial of access to legal counsel contribute to the problem. Prisoners of conscience have reported rapes, beatings, threats to family members, and life-threatening interrogations. Four arbitrarily detained protestors died of wounds from torture at the Kazhirak Detention Center.
Arbitrary arrests and detentions of prisoners of conscience
Official statistics indicate that at least 6,000 persons have been arrested since June 2009 for peacefully demonstrating their political views or for holding reform-oriented views or being related to those who do. At least 500 prisoners of conscience languish in Iran’s jails today, the majority in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. They include a number of human rights defenders, women’s rights activists, students, intellectuals, and journalists. Arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders and others have continued as authorities pursue
a policy of attempting to eradicate dissent.
Lack of equality under the law; Legal discrimination against women
Because it rests on such vague and subjective concepts as persons who “deserve death,” women, children, non-Muslims, dissidents, and critics, do not enjoy equal protection under the law, as they may be harmed under the pretext of “safeguarding Islamic values.” Perpetrators of such crimes enjoy virtual impunity under such circumstances. Iran’s Criminal Code deeply violates the principle of equality embedded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Women suffer legal discrimination with regard to inter alia their obligations to obey husbands; restrictions on travel; divorce; the management, legal custody and nationality of children; and the right to work. Blood money to be paid for the murder of a woman is half that of a man’s and a wife may be legally murdered if she is suspected of adultery. Women are subject to more rigid restrictions than men with regard to their dress and behavior.
Violations of due process
The Iranian Judiciary is increasingly under the control and is being exploited by the Revolutionary Guards, Ministry of Intelligence, and other security apparatuses. These institutions interfere in investigations, interrogations, and trials. Thousands of citizens have been arrested without proper warrants or sufficient legal basis. Dissenters facing prosecution are routinely denied access to lawyers, held for months without charge, denied access to information about charges against them, charged with capital offenses such as “enmity against God,” forced to confess in show trials after being tortured, and given disproportionately harsh sentences including death for “crimes” as petty as throwing rocks during demonStrations. In recent months, nine political prisoners have been executed following closed trials lasting only minutes, during which they were not permitted to defend themselves.
Ethnic and religious discrimination
Ethnic and religious minorities including Baha’is, Kurds, Baluchs, Azeris, Arabs, and other groups are subject to discrimination. Members of the Baha’i Faith, with about 300,000 members making them the largest non-Muslim religious minority group, are facing intensified persecution including cemetery desecration, arbitrary detention, home raids, property confiscation, work expulsion and denial of basic civil rights. Iranian Baha’i youth continue to be denied the right to higher education, and any university found to have a Baha’i student is ordered to expel them. Baha’i professionals are denied government jobs and face discrimination About 40 Bahai’s are now jailed, including the seven top leaders who were each recently sentenced to twenty years in prison.
Violations of the Freedom of Expression; Media censorship
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that Iran is detaining one third of the world’s imprisoned journalists. Foreign journalists have been restricted from observing political demonstrations. Victims and their family members are being threatened with the most severe consequences if they communicate with foreign journalists. Iran’s highest authorities have publicly announced that dissent is a crime and will be prosecuted, and have incited violence against dissenters. Numerous rights activists, political activists, students, and others have been prosecuted and jailed on the basis of their published articles and statements. Universities are being purged of professors whose views do not accord with government policies. Censorship of printed and electronic media is pervasive and all independent newspapers have been banned. Internet bandwidths have been reduced to restrict usage. SMS systems are routinely blocked and social networking websites restricted.
Crackdown on civil society and freedom of association and assembly
Iran’s most important civil society organizations and movements have been shut down or neutralized in a process that began when President Ahmadinejad first took office. Around 70 percent of human rights defenders have been jailed or exiled, while the remainder cannot work. Members of women’s rights groups peacefully campaigning to change discriminatory laws have been systematically repressed. Hundreds of students have been arbitrarily detained and ill-treated for their activism. Organizing independent labor unions is not permitted and leading labor organizers are in prison. Many civil society activists have been banned from travel. Activists’ and other citizens’ email and telephone communications are often monitored, violating their privacy. In some cases, the Iranian security agencies’ monitoring of citizens extends to those living abroad.
Prisoners of conscience, many of whom are held in Ward 350 of Tehran’s Evin prison, are being denied needed medical care, putting some at grave risk. They are routinely held in unhealthy, unsanitary conditions, denied family visits and telephone calls, and given very low-quality food. Some are also held in cells with violent criminals.