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Mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran is Renewed for Third Year

March 24, 2013

(GENEVA, NEW HAVEN) – The Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC) is pleased to note that the mandate of Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI), was renewed by the UN Human Rights Council in a resounding majority vote on March 22, 2013. The vote—which included 26 voting in favor, 2 voting against, 17 abstentions, and 2 unrecorded votes (from Qatar and Kazakhstan)—marks a shift from last year’s vote in which 22 voted in favor, 5 voted against and 22 abstained.  

In respect to the shift, Dr. Shaheed remarked that, “The increased margin in the UN vote shows the robust international concern about the human rights situation in Iran. The Iranian government should heed this and the Iranian people should draw strength from this.”

(Source: blog.unwatch.org

Dr. Shaheed's recent report to the Human Rights Council outlines violations of civil, political and socioeconomic rights, highlights the plight of women and minority groups, including ethnic, religious and sexual minorities. The report also specifically names over 150 current prisoners including journalists and members of the Baha'i faith and Christian converts whose continued detention is likely in contravention of Iran's international treaty obligations.

In his latest report, the UN Special Rapporteur also examines 50 separate cases of torture since 2009. Among his findings regarding the forms of torture employed in Iran, the Special Rapporteur establishes that blunt force trauma occurred in all the cases examined and that both "positional torture, including suspension" and sexual torture were employed in more than half of the cases. The report also expresses concern at the rise in executions in Iran over the last decade.

Dr. Shaheed presented the report on March 11, 2013 in Geneva at the 29th meeting of the 22nd session of the Human Rights Council.  During the Special Rapporteur’s interactive dialogue with the Council that day and the following, representatives from several member states expressed alarm at recent negative human rights developments in Iran.

The Swedish representative underscored the humanitarian impact of ongoing socioeconomic difficulties and pointed to evidence indicating that the IRI is increasingly denying defendants fair trials in death penalty cases. 

Representatives from Ecuador, Austria, Switzerland and the European Union also expressed concern regarding the implementation of the death penalty in Iran. Norway called attention to the IRI's executions of juveniles and the use of flogging and amputation as a form of criminal punishment. The Norwegian representative added that the IRI's new draft of the Islamic Penal Code appeared to expand punishments for sodomy and muharibih, or enmity against God, a national security crime commonly used in prosecutions of political prisoners in Iran.

Austria registered concerns regarding the routine use of vaguely-defined national security charges against human rights defenders in Iran and the fact that members of recognized religious minorities in Iran face oppression, but members of unrecognized religious minorities face systematic persecution.

The European Union registered alarm regarding the ongoing house arrests of Mehdi Karroubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi, both pro-reform candidates from the disputed June 2009 presidential election in Iran who have not been seen in public for over two years. The European Union representative also decried infringements on the freedom of the press in Iran.

Germany expressed concerns over the continued imprisonment of human rights defenders Abdolfattah Soltani, Javid Houtan Kian, Shiva Nazar Ahari, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah and Nasrin Sotoudeh based on convictions in trials that did not meet minimum standards.  The German representative also criticized the exertion of pressure on opposition leaders through the harassment of their family members.

In addition to suggesting areas for further investigation, member states also directly advocated that the IRI discontinue policies counter to its human rights obligations: the representative from the Czech Republic called for the IRI to ban torture, and the Ecuadoran representative added that the IRI should work to address questions regarding its implementation of the death penalty through UN mechanisms.

In the response of the IRI to Dr. Shaheed’s report, Mohammad Javad Larijani, the Secretary-General of the IRI's High Council for Human Rights, called the credibility of Dr. Shaheed's witnesses into question. Meanwhile, Cuba criticized the use of country-specific mandates as a discriminatory practice and the Venezuelan representative added that the UNSR's mandate represented an act of "imperialist aggression" against an opponent of the United States.

The vote to extend Dr. Shaheed's mandate and the member states' comments related above demonstrate that a sizable majority of the Human Rights Council finds that the situation merits further exploration, and in turn this continued international scrutiny of Iran's human rights practices will be indispensable as Iran prepares for another presidential election in June 2013.


For all the latest updates on the work of the Special Rapporteur and his office, please visit: www.shaheedoniran.org

You can find the Special Rapporteur on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ahmed-Shaheed/166808216805238

To watch video of Dr. Shaheed’s speech at the Human Rights Council, please visit: http://www.shaheedoniran.org/english/dr-shaheeds-work/statements/3151-video-dr-shaheed-s-speech-at-the-22nd-session-of-the-un-human-rights-coucil.html


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