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UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran Presents October 2014 Report to UNGA

(October 30, 2014) -- The Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC) welcomes the new report of Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nation Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI), who has reiterated concerns regarding systematic violations of human rights in Iran. As the report’s introduction states, in contravention of a number of international human rights mechanisms and several suggestions to the Iranian government, the situation of human rights has worsened in a number of aspects.

In presenting his report to the United Nations General Assembly this week, Dr. Shaheed pointed to the high number of executions and the continuation of the practice of juvenile executions as some of the troubling elements that merit further consideration. According to the report, between July 2013 and June 2014, 825 people were executed in the IRI. Moreover, in 2014 alone the Iranian government executed eight individuals who were under the age of 18 when they committed the crimes with which they were charged. Dr. Shaheed has also expressed concern about the wide range of offenses punishable by the death penalty.  These crimes include adultery, recidivist alcohol use, and drug offenses.

In his report, Dr. Shaheed demonstrates that despite statements by President Hassan Rouhani indicating that there were no journalists imprisoned in Iran, the state of free press rights in Iran is of great concern. In addition to the 35 journalists imprisoned in Iran, often for the vaguely-defined crime of “disseminating propaganda against the regime”, Iran filters websites and detains cyber activists.

Discrimination against women is another aspect of the human rights situation discussed in Dr. Shaheed’s report. The report alleges that a new gender-rationing policy has caused a substantial drop in the proportion of women to men enrolled in universities. Dr. Shaheed also noted that between March 2012 and March 2013 about 40,635 marriages of girls under 15 years of age were registered in Iran.

The report also highlights the ongoing limitations on religious and civil rights in Iran. According to the report, at least 300 followers of different religions are imprisoned. These individuals include Bahá'ís, Christian converts, Gonabadi dervishes and members of the Yarsan faith. Dr. Shaheed’s report also states that 11 student activists are serving prison sentences. As part of its core mission, IHRDC examines the situation of prisoners of conscience on an ongoing basis. At its last count, IHRDC estimated that there were over 800 prisoners of conscience in Iran.

In his press conference prior to submitting his report to the UN General Assembly, Dr. Shaheed mentioned the bill on Formal Attorneyship as a threat to the independence of Iran’s bar association. Dr. Shaheed cited the three-year suspension of Nasrin Sotoudeh’s law license as an example of the Iranian government’s pressure on attorneys. IHRDC has noted in the past that government retaliation against individual attorneys and pressure on the legal practice generally has had the effect of discouraging attorneys from defending clients in sensitive cases, thereby further weakening due process rights in Iran.

In Iran’s first Universal Periodic Review in February 2010, the international community presented several suggestions for improving the situation of social and economic rights to Iran’s delegation. Many issues covered in those suggestions also appear in Mr. Shaheed’s report, including employment, education, gender discrimination, the rights of religious and ethnic minorities, and the environment. In response, the IRI claims that the report is politically-motivated, a reiteration of its previous criticism of Dr. Shaheed’s mandate.

The effects of international sanctions on the economic and social conditions of the Iranian people are also discussed in Dr. Shaheed’s report. IHRDC shares these concerns and requests that the IRI and P5+1 states take the humanitarian harm of the continuation of broad-based sanctions on Iran into consideration.

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