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Dr. Ahmed Shaheed presents report on situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran to Third Committee of General Assembly member states react

26 October 2012

--          Member states welcome Dr. Ahmed Shaheed's latest report, criticize challenges placed in his way by not being permitted to travel freely in Iran

--          Member states express concern with violations of the freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and restrictions on access to information

--          Member states alarmed by rate of executions in Iran

--          Criticism by other states of continued "politicization" of the UN  Special Rapporteur's mandate


NEW HAVEN -- On Wednesday, October 24, 2012 the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI), Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, introduced his latest report to the eighth meeting of the third committee of the General Assembly. Dr. Shaheed registered concerns of a "deeply troubling" state of affairs, noting the imprisonment of over 40 journalists and at least 32 lawyers and human rights defenders, along with continued repression of religious and ethnic minorities. Dr. Shaheed's full report can be read here and a brief summary of the report's findings by the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center can be read here.

Dr. Shaheed's presentation was welcomed by several member states in the dialogue that followed, with support from the United States, the European Union (EU), and the United Kingdom, among others. The report received praise for its breadth despite the IRI's continued refusal to allow Dr. Shaheed to visit the country. Member states shared concerns regarding the status of political prisoners (Norway), human rights defenders (Czech Republic), and imprisoned attorneys (UK). Dr. Shaheed was "deeply concerned" about the situation of imprisoned attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has been on hunger strike since October 17 due to denials of visitation with her family and the travel ban on her 13-year old daughter. Brazil called for the IRI to view cooperation with the UN Special Rapporteur as a confidence-building measure.

Several member states including Brazil, Norway, the UK and the Czech Republic joined Dr. Shaheed in expressing concern regarding the conditions faced by human rights defenders. The delegation from the Czech Republic highlighted the intimidation of family members and friends of human rights defenders as a particular source of concern and argued that legislation inconsistent with Iran's human rights obligations, widespread impunity and insufficient adherence to the rule of law contributed to the dire human rights situation. The UK also decried the IRI's failure to implement the 123 accepted suggestions from its Universal Periodic Review, reiterating its criticisms from the UN Human Rights Council's 19th session.

Canada, meanwhile, also welcomed the report and further inquiry into human rights violations in Iran, emphasizing the opacity and restrictiveness of the electoral process in the IRI. In his response, the UN Special Rapporteur underscored the vetting of candidates by unelected officials, the persecution of journalists, the gender ban on women running for president and other indirect causes as contributing to the obstacles to free and fair elections in Iran.

The Canadian delegation also criticized the treatment of religious minority communities and violations of the right to education, especially with regards to recent discrimination against women in higher education and the criminalization of education for Baha'i youth. 

While there were calls by Dr. Shaheed and the delegation from the EU for the IRI not to view the UN Special Rapporteur's mandate as a punitive measure, comments from the IRI and China during the dialogue with Dr. Shaheed indicate that obstacles to cooperation from the IRI persist.

The IRI and the People's Republic of China (PRC) criticized the process. The IRI expressed the belief that the UN Special Rapporteur's mandate was motivated by the political goals "of the United States and its European allies" and that the report lacked independence and objectivity. It complained that its substantive responses to the report had not been adequately registered.

Furthermore the IRI disputed the report's depiction of internet restrictions in Iran, countering that the IRI’s recent "cybersecurity measures" were not an attack on the freedom of expression, as the report and several member states suggest. The IRI's representative did not respond directly to paragraph 17 of the report, which points out that the IRI has 19 netizens in prison and four on death row.

The representative of the PRC rejected the use of country-specific mandates on the grounds that it politicized the UNSR system, and supported the IRI's response while the Maldives joined the IRI in urging the UN Special Rapporteur to examine the impact of recent sanctions on the human rights situation in Iran. Dr. Shaheed once again expressed a willingness to do so, but explained that such a study would require a different methodology--the Special Rapporteur currently focuses on witness testimony, and an analysis of the impact of sanctions would require broader sets of data--and would require cooperation from the IRI, which has not as of yet been forthcoming.

The delegation from the EU also expressed interest in learning whether or not the IRI's recently revised Islamic Penal Code eliminated the most violent punishments, as claimed by the IRI, and drew attention to the recent executions of 10 prisoners for drug-related crimes and the frequency of executions in the IRI.

For more on the issues raised in Dr. Shaheed's report and by member states at the third committee of the General Assembly, see:

Abuses against human rights defenders:

On the Margins: Arrest, Imprisonment and Execution of Kurdish Activists in Iran Today

Abuses against members of religious minority groups:

The witness statement of Danial Shahri

Crimes Against Humanity: The Islamic Republic’s Attacks on the Bahá’ís

Restrictions on access to information:

The witness statement of Sara

Forced Confessions: Targeting Iran's Cyber-Journalists

Restrictions on the rights to free assembly and expression:

Violent Aftermath: The 2009 Election and Suppression of Dissent in Iran


IHRDC’s Chart of Executions to date in 2012

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Tagged as:

Executions, Kurds, Baha'i, Freedom of Religion