Top UN Official: Human Rights Situation in Iran is of “Serious Concern”
Secretary-General Cites Impunity for Rights Violations and Increase Risk of Future Violations
*Read the full UN Secretary-General report here.
In the latest report on Iran by the UN Secretary-General, the world’s top diplomat stated that the rights situation in Iran “remains of serious concern” and that “impediments to the rule of law and weak justice and accountability mechanisms result in impunity, perpetuate existing [human rights] violations and increase the risk of future violations.”
The UN chief continued: “The failure to establish a mechanism in accordance with international law for accountability and remedy for violations committed in the context of protests in November 2019 is emblematic. Protesters, human rights defenders, lawyers and civil society actors continue to be subject to intimidation, arbitrary detention and criminal prosecution, including the death penalty.”
Iran’s Death Penalty and Other Judicial Policies Heavily Criticized
The report heavily criticized Iran’s death penalty practices, noting its application for crimes that do not adhere to international standards and after unfair trials, its disproportionate application against minorities, and its use against protesters and “for the exercise of the right of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.” In 2020, the report noted that at least 267 individuals were executed. In particular, the Secretary-General decried the continued execution of juvenile offenders in Iran, noting that in 2020, at least four child offenders were executed.
The Secretary-General stated that “arbitrary deprivation of life in detention [was not only] due to torture, but may also be due to the denial of medical treatment,” adding that “reports show torture by members of the police, intelligence and other security forces, without evidence of a system of oversight capable of effectively investigating such violations.”
The report noted that measures to prevent human rights violations, or provide effective remedy, were “largely non-existent or at best insufficient” and that “impunity exists in cases of recent violations and of past violations that have not been investigated or prosecuted.”
Referencing the continued persecution of human rights lawyers in Iran, in which attorneys have been sentenced to long prison terms for the defense of political prisoners and of basic civil and political liberties, the report stated: “the climate of impunity is compounded by a lack of due process, threat of reprisals and pressure against lawyers.”
“Heavy Reliance” on Torture and Forced Confessions Condemned
The Secretary-General stated he is “alarmed at the number of documented cases of torture and ill-treatment of children, women and men. Testimonies, photos, audio files and forensic evidence show a pattern of physical and mental coercion to force a confession in the absence of other evidence.”
The report noted that between 2009 and 2019, “State media broadcast forced confessions from at least 355 individuals” [and that] … the heavy reliance of the justice system on confessions during investigations seems to be a major incentive for torture, reportedly undertaken by a range of actors, including the police, police intelligence, the Ministry of Intelligence, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and security forces.”
The report cited other rights violations by the judiciary, including prolonged solitary confinement and long pretrial detention, and stated that “lack of effective legal representation remains a due process concern, [as] lawyers’ ability to provide defence is often hindered.”
Right to Dissent, Freedom of Assembly and Expression, All Denied
The Secretary-General stated he “remains concerned about the criminalization of the exercise of the right to peaceful assembly and at the violent dispersal of peaceful protests,” and “is concerned at prosecutions in connection with the protests of November 2019, with at least 500 people subjected to criminal investigations.” He noted that “detainees were reportedly subjected to inhuman treatment and torture to confess to association with opposition groups or foreign Governments.” He also criticized the excessive use of force in the context of labor protests and by border officials.
Regarding press and internet freedoms, the report stated at least 15 journalists were in detention as at 1 December 2020, and that between 1 June 2020 and 31 January 2021, more than 57 individuals were arrested and detained for online activities and postings on Instagram, Telegram and other social media platforms, including on charges of “insulting the Prophet of Islam,” “connection with opposition groups” and “insulting the police.”
Women Unprotected from Sexual Violence, Minorities Arbitrarily Detained
The Secretary-General’s report criticized the lack of protections for women and children, stating “the new bill on ‘preserving the dignity and protection of women against violence’ does not criminalize child marriage or marital rape, nor does it repeal discriminatory provisions against women in the Civil Code and the Islamic Penal Code, including the narrow definition of sexual violence and assault.”
The report also decried the situation of minorities, including their arbitrary arrest and detainment and the criminalization of the advocacy of minority rights.
Read the full UN Secretary-General report here.