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Surviving Rape in Iran's Prisons

II. Prison Rape Violates International and Iranian Law

Although rape is a crime in the Islamic Republic, as noted by the United Nation Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, the evidentiary standards are high and difficult to prove. In 2005, she noted that “[a] victim of rape can only prove her claim by presenting several male witnesses.” She described a case where the rape victim was unable to meet this threshold and therefore was charged with adultery.44 The evidentiary requirements are even more difficult to meet for victims in prison.

Prison rape constitutes an act of torture, which is absolutely prohibited under both Iranian and international human rights law. Article 38 of the Iranian Constitution provides that "all forms of torture for the purpose of extracting confessions or acquiring information are forbidden.”45 The international prohibition against torture is codified in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT).46 It is also set forth in several other international instruments including Article 7 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which provides that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”47 While the Islamic Republic has declined to be a party to CAT, its authorities are still obligated to respect the Convention’s terms as it merely codified the already-existing universal prohibition against torture.48

Torture is defined in CAT as

any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession . . . when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.49

The U.N. Special Rapporteurs on Torture have consistently noted that rape in prison is torture.50 For example, the first Rapporteur included rape as a method of physical torture in his 1986 report51 and reiterated his position in 1992:

Since it was clear that rape or other sexual assaults against woman in detention were a particular ignominious violation of the inherent dignity and the right to physical integrity of the human being, they accordingly constituted an act of torture.52

[44] See ECOSOC, Commission on Human Rights, Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Yakin Erturk, ¶ 56, U.N. Doc. E/CN.u/2006/61/add.3 (Jan. 27, 2006), available at http://www.universalhumanrightsindex.org/documents/848/822/document/en/text.html.
[45] Qanun-i Assasiyih Jumhuriyih Islamiyih Iran [Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran] 1358 [adopted 1979, amended 1989], art. 38.
[46] Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, GA res. 39/46, annex, 39 UN GAOR Supp. (No. 51) at 197, UN Doc. A/39/51 (1984); 1465 UNTS 85, available at aadel.iranhrdc.org [hereinafter Convention Against Torture or CAT].
[47] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, art. 7, Mar. 23, 1976, 999 U.N.T.S. 171 [hereinafter ICCPR]. Iran signed the ICCPR on April 4, 1968 and ratified the agreement on June 24, 1975 without reservations.
[48] See Renee C. Redman, Defining “Torture”: The Collateral Effect on Immigration Law of the Attorney General’s Narrow Interpretation of “Specifically Intended” When Applied to United States Interrogators, 62 N.Y. UNIV. ANNUAL SURVEY OF AM. LAW 465, 470 (2007).
[49] Convention Against Torture, supra note 46, art. 1.
[50] The U.N. Commission on Human Rights first appointed a special Rapporteur to “examine questions relevant to torture” in 1985. In 2008, the mandate was extended for three years. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/torture/rapporteur/index.htm.
[51] ECOSOC, Commission on Human Rights, Report by the Special Rapporteur, Mr. P. Kooijmans, ¶ 119, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/1986/15 (Feb. 19, 1986), available athttp://ap.ohchr.org/documents/E/CHR/report/E-CN_4-1986-15.pdf.

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Imprisonment, Sexual Violence, Torture, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, Punishment