UN Secretary-General Expresses Alarm about Executions, Retaliation Against Activists and Attacks on Women in Iran
In his interim report on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran published on Tuesday, March 3, 2015, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon detailed a long list of human rights concerns, leading with the ongoing application of the death penalty, retaliation against activists cooperating with the United Nations and a deterioration in women’s rights.
The Secretary-General opened the interim report with a clear condemnation of Iran’s continuing application of the death penalty.
The report noted “[t]he Secretary-General continues to express his alarm at the increasing number of death sentences handed down and executions carried out in the Islamic Republic of Iran. United Nations human rights mechanisms have repeatedly and consistently expressed their great concern at this persistent trend, and have urged the Government to end executions.”
In particular the Secretary-General voiced his concern about Iran’s chronic application of the death penalty to drug-related offenses, which do not qualify as the “most serious crimes”; the number of death penalty cases with a political dimension; the high incidence of public executions; and the execution of juveniles.
In his recommendations concluding the report, the Secretary-General insisted that he “remains deeply troubled by the continuing large number of executions, including of political prisoners and juveniles, and reiterates his call upon the Government to introduce a moratorium on the use of the death penalty and to prohibit the execution of juvenile offenders in all circumstances.”
Next, the Secretary-General noted his “great concern” regarding allegations of reprisals against individuals because of their cooperation or for establishing contacts with United Nations human rights mechanisms or representatives.
The Secretary-General noted that although the Iranian authorities stated that no individual had been prosecuted because of their contact with United Nations human rights mechanisms, “[o]f the 29 communications transmitted to the Iranian authorities from January to November 2014, four communications related to cases of acts of reprisal, double the number seen the previous year.”
In response to the increase in these types of cases, the Secretary-General called on the Iranian authorities to protect individuals from all acts of reprisals, and more generally called on the authorities to “create space” for human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists, many of whom have been targeted by these retaliatory actions.
In his interim report, the Secretary-General also detailed the recent series of acid attacks against Iranian women and the inadequate response of the Iranian authorities, in particular noting that “the incidents drew considerable attention both domestically and internationally, with concerns being expressed that the attacks might be linked to the approval of the plan on the protection of promoters of virtue and prevention of vice.”
That plan, which is currently pending in Iran’s Parliament, explicitly calls for Basij militias to enforce strict hijab (female dress) and other acts of “virtue”. In regards to the envisioned role of the Basij in this plan, Nasrin Sotoudeh—one of Iran’s leading human rights defenders—has protested that “dispatching unidentified and untrained individuals to promote virtue among the citizens is completely against the law, legal principles, and legal rationale, and is a menace to the citizens which must be stopped right here.”
On this point, the report noted “[t]he Secretary-General urges the Islamic Republic of Iran to review critically the plan on the protection of promoters of virtue and preventers of vice, which may allow individuals to target women who are dressed in a manner deemed unconventional.”
The report concludes with a series of recommendations, including the aforementioned renewed and robust call on the Iranian authorities to implement a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.
The recommendations also call on the Iranian authorities to cooperate fully with Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, by giving him access to the country.
At the beginning of his report, the Secretary-General welcomed the participation of Iran in the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review and other UN mechanisms but lamented that “none of the special procedures mandate holders of the Human Rights Council, including the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, has been admitted to the country.”
The release of the Secretary-General interim report precedes the release of the report from Dr. Shaheed, the special mandate holder, to the UN Human Rights Council. The mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran will be up for renewal in March 2015, at the 28th session of the UN Human Rights Council.