The Human Rights Council held on March 11 and March 12 an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in Iran.
In its discussion on the human rights situation in Iran, the Human Rights Council heard the presentation of the report by Ahmed Shaheed, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, who said that the situation of human rights defenders continued to deteriorate; they were frequently charged with vaguely-defined national security crimes, thus eroding the frontline of human rights defense in the country. There was unimpeachable forensic evidence that torture was occurring in Iran on a widespread and systemic basis. Mr. Shaheed remained alarmed at the high rate of executions that took place in Iran, mostly for drug-related offenses which did not meet international standards for “most serious crimes”.
Iran spoke as the concerned country and said that country-specific resolutions reduced noble human rights concerns to manipulative devices of political rivalry, while selectivity and double standard would lead to the manipulation of the whole United Nations system. Iran unequivocally rejected the creation of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur but said that this should not be construed as non-cooperation with the United Nations human rights machinery. Universality of human rights should be a platform to promote respect for others and meaningful interaction.
Speakers in the interactive dialogue on human rights in Iran expressed their concern about the widespread use of torture in the country, the situation of human rights defenders, religious minorities and journalists and the disturbing rate of public executions, particularly in the absence of fair trial standards. Delegations urged Iran to fully engage with the United Nations human rights machinery to overcome the obstacles it faced.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue were Sweden, European Union, Venezuela, United States, Switzerland, Ecuador, Norway, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Austria and Czech Republic.
AHMED SHAHEED, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, introducing his report, said that the meeting with Iranian officials he had last week would expand the opportunities for the Government to address the issues raised by the mandate and this development was the result of the constructive work and efforts of the members of the Council. The outcome of Iran’s Universal Periodic Review had provided a sound platform for both engagement and assessment of the Government’s progress in promoting respect for human rights. Iran had made noteworthy advances in the area of women’s rights, particularly in literacy, school enrolment rates and in health, but reports about recent policies restricting women’s access to a number of fields of study remained problematic. The prevailing human rights situation in Iran continued to be of serious concern and would require a wide range of solutions. Two reprisal cases had been reported in November and December 2012, which seriously undermined the work of the United Nations human rights mechanism.
The situation of human rights defenders was grave and continued to deteriorate; they were subjected to harassment, arrests and torture and were frequently charged with vaguely-defined national security crimes, thus eroding the frontline of human rights defense in the country. The report presented unimpeachable forensic evidence that torture was occurring in Iran on a widespread and systemic basis. The existence of legal safeguards against torture in both Iranian and Islamic law did not invalidate allegations of torture or the responsibility of authorities to investigate it. The Special Rapporteur remained alarmed at the high rate of executions that took place in the country, mostly for drug-related offenses which did not meet international standards for “most serious crimes”. Iran should immediately halt the recent spate of arrests of journalists and release those already detained. Those arrests were part of a broader campaign to crack-down on independent journalists and media outlets under the accusation that they collaborated with anti-revolutionary foreign media outlets and human rights organizations. Some 40 lawyers had been prosecuted since 2009 and 10 were currently detained. There were serious concerns about the situation of religious minorities, with Baha’is and Protestants held in detention centres across Iran. In closing, the Special Rapporteur expressed his serious concern about the humanitarian effects of the general economic sanctions imposed on Iran, although conflicting statements by various officials made it difficult to discern the reality of the situation in this regard.
Statement by the Concerned Country
Iran, speaking as the concerned country, said that country-specific resolutions reduced noble human rights concerns to manipulative devices of political rivalry and two parallel and repetitive reporting procedures in the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council which were established to report about the human rights situation in the country sufficed to illustrate that the move was ill-intended. Selectivity and double standards would lead to the manipulation of the whole United Nations human rights machinery. Iran unequivocally rejected the creation of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and would maintain this principled position. However, this should not be construed as non-cooperation with the United Nations human rights mechanism, on the contrary. The report was a product of an unhealthy, non-objective and counter-productive exercise initiated by the United States and its European allies, and a compilation of unfounded allegations and accusations that unfortunately bore the symbol of the United Nations. The Special Rapporteur was required to observe the principles of impartiality, honesty, transparency and fairness, avoiding impacts of political pressures. By conducting opinionated interviews with biased media and being prejudiced about the claims, the Rapporteur had reduced himself to a political opponent acting against Iran in clear contradiction of the mandate-holders’ Code of Conduct. The Special Rapporteur began his report with a pre-judgment that claimed widespread systemic and systematic violations of human rights and fostering a culture of impunity in Iran. Iran regretted that the Special Rapporteur had avoided any reference of human rights promotional activities and achievements. It was further disappointing that not once were unilateral sanctions mentioned or condemned, while these were in clear negation of the principles of international law as well as the letter and spirit of the United Nations Charter. The universality of human rights should not be used as justification for demolishing and uprooting the most valuable experience of humanity in the creation of a different model of living. Rather, it should be a platform to promote respect for others and meaningful interaction.
Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran
Sweden welcomed the all-embracing approach taken by the Special Rapporteur and the specific attention paid to the human rights of women in Iran. A negative trend was observable in the status of the human rights of women and a number of Iranian laws continued to discriminate against women. Sweden was dismayed by the continuously dire circumstances of minorities, including religious groups, most notably the systematic discrimination of members of the Baha’i community. Could the Special Rapporteur elaborate on what access Iranians had to independent information?
European Union said that it was concerned about the rising number of executions carried out in Iran and condemned the use of torture and other degrading treatment. Restrictions on freedom of expression, and the harassment and arrest of human rights defenders and journalists were alarming phenomena. The European Union urged Iran to comply with its international human rights obligations. The systematic harassment of members of religious minorities was deplorable, and Iran should cease immediately that practice. Also, free access should be granted to the Special Rapporteur so he could carry out his mandate.
Venezuela said that Venezuela rejected the practice of dominant powers to impose mandates on developing countries, which undermined the credibility of the Council. The premises of the report of the Special Rapporteur on Iran were in line with that policy of aggression. Iran had actively shown that it was willing to cooperate with the United Nations human rights mechanisms. Venezuela wished to see mandates imposed by developed countries eliminated. The politicization, selectivity and double standards which those mandates represented should also be done away with.
United States said that the reports of violations of women’s rights and the continued use of torture in Iran were of great concern, as was the imprisonment and harassment by the Government of human rights defenders, religious minorities, bloggers, labour leaders and journalists. What steps could the international community take to ensure the safety of those Iranians most at risk of persecution in light of the upcoming elections and to pursue concerns about reprisals and ensure the safety of those who cooperated with the mandate?
Switzerland welcomed the report which brought attention to important issues such as the death penalty, restrictions on the rights of women, and prosecution of human rights defenders and religious minorities. Switzerland was alarmed over the extensive use of the death penalty in Iran and asked the Special Rapporteur about his analysis of this practice and how could the international community help to remedy this situation.
Ecuador was committed to the promotion and protection of human rights in the world and condemned all those violating those rights. Ecuador was not ready to take part in the strategy of attacking members of the international community and promoting political aims by using arguments such as human rights, while other States were permitted to violate their international obligations and boycott regular mechanisms of the Human Rights Council.
Norway said that the situation of human rights in Iran remained a cause of grave concern. Norway was particularly concerned about the extensive use of the death penalty in Iran, especially against minors, the high number of mass executions, and reported cases of amputation and flogging. Restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly, unlawful detentions, and torture were severe obstacles for the improvement of the situation. Norway urged Iran to allow the Special Rapporteur entry into the country so he could carry out his mandate.
Democratic People's Republic of Korea reaffirmed its position that country-specific mandates imposed by Western countries on developing countries were anachronistic acts. Any attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of other States could not be justified and was in violation of international law and of the principle of territorial integrity and sovereignty of the States concerned. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea wished to see the elimination by the Council of all country-specific mandates.
Austria expressed grave concern at the situation of human rights defenders in Iran; they were subjected to harassment, arrest, interrogation and torture and were frequently charged with vaguely-defined national security crimes. Austria called for the immediate release of the 60 journalists currently imprisoned in Iran. The number of executions carried out in the country, especially in the absence of fair trial standards, was a matter of grave concern. Austria urged Iran to introduce a moratorium on the death penalty.
Czech Republic was concerned about the impact of widespread human rights violations in Iran on the functioning of civil society, particularly in view of the upcoming Presidential elections. The lack of attention by the authorities to acts of torture committed in the country was frustrating. The Czech Republic remained deeply troubled by the shrinking space for freedom of expression and assembly and the continued arrest and detention of journalists and human rights defenders.
Canada said that Iranian authorities systematically persecuted ethnic and religious minorities, including Baha’is, Christians, Jews, Sufis, and Sunni Muslims, which was in direct contravention of Iran’s obligations under the United Nations Charter. Iran’s upcoming presidential election should mark a clear break from calculated efforts to deny Iranians their most basic freedoms. Canada condemned the recent mass arrest of Iranian journalists and bloggers.
Maldives said that the situation in Iran remained a pressing matter for the Council. The establishment of an open, non-politicized and transparent dialogue with Iran should be a priority. Maldives believed that cooperation and mutual respect would be underlying foundations for a productive interaction between the country concerned and the international community, and called on Iran to increase its engagement with the Council.
France said that it shared the concerns of the Special Rapporteur about the violation of the civil, political, economic and social rights of the Iranian population. The number of executions in Iran was alarming. It was also worrying that persons charged with minor offences, often minors, were given death penalty sentences. France called upon Iran to fully cooperate with the Special Rapporteur and give him full access to its territory.
China said it always advocated for all countries to engage in constructive dialogue on the basis of mutual respect and to solve their differences in the human rights field in an appropriate manner. The Human Rights Council should uphold the principles of universality and objectivity and refuse the practice of politicization of human rights issues and the Special Rapporteur should play a constructive role in his actions in Iran.
Slovakia was concerned about the extent of executions carried out in Iran and took negative note of the punitive State action against human rights defenders and members of civil society. Slovakia called on Iran to establish an immediate moratorium on the death penalty, to release all prisoners of conscience, and to pay special attention to the legal framework that discriminated against women and religious and ethnic minorities.
United Kingdom said that the reports of widespread use of torture in Iran and reports that 60 per cent of victims suffered “sexual torture” were horrifying. How had Iran responded to those reports and would it launch investigations? The United Kingdom remained deeply concerned about the persecution of religious and ethnic minorities, and the harassment of women campaigning for improvements of their socio-economic and legal rights.
Belarus said that it considered country mandates to be politicized and selective, and considered the document presented by the Special Rapporteur to be detrimental because it had been compiled by secondary, dubious sources. It was obvious that the Special Rapporteur could not act objectively. The Council should have opted for a dialogue with Iran instead. The Universal Periodic Review, in which Iran participated fully, was a far more useful mechanism.
Slovenia said that it regretted that the Special Rapporteur was not allowed to visit Iran, and called on Iran to fully cooperate with that mechanism of the Council by opening its doors to the mandate holder. Slovenia expressed concern about the prosecution, arrests, and criminalization of members of religious minorities contrary to the internationally recognized right to freedom of religion or belief. Had Iran taken any steps to remedy the situation of the Baha’i people?
New Zealand said that it was gravely concerned about the systematic discrimination faced by religious and ethnic minorities in Iran and about the use of the death penalty for ill-defined crimes. Despite signs that Iran had made progress regarding the access of women to education, more should be done to increase the political empowerment of women. Iran should cooperate with the Council and allow the Special Rapporteur full access to the country.
Cuba said that the existence of the Special Rapporteur on Iran and the interactive dialogue today were evidence of politicization and double standards in the Human Rights Council. Cuba rejected country resolutions and mandates on countries of the South and said that human rights were not the real reason for the way Iran was treated in the Human Rights Council, but this was due to the regime change by the United States.
Germany remained deeply concerned about the increasing repression against Iranian human rights defenders and activists and about signals that pointed to an increase in repressive measures against opposition and critical journalists and bloggers in the run up to the Presidential elections. Iran continued to apply the death penalty in a wide range of criminal offences, including against persons below the age of 18.
Belgium welcomed the fact that the Special Rapporteur sought cooperation of the Iranian Government and was concerned about alarming reports of State action against individuals suspected of communicating with Special Procedures. Belgium shared the alarm over the escalating rate of executions in the county, and about the human rights situation of religious minorities, particularly the Baha’is and Dervishes.
Zimbabwe said that it did not subscribe to the imposition of country specific Special Procedure mandates because they tended to be prosecutorial, politicized and selective. The protection and promotion of human rights should be based on the principles of universality, indivisibility and interdependence. Zimbabwe believed that the Council should promote a spirit of cooperation and constructive dialogue with Iran.
Syria said that Iran had made efforts to cooperate with the Council and had accepted all the relevant mechanisms. The Council was operating under pressure from certain countries, including the United States and Europe. As a result, some of the information included in the report was biased and required further investigation. Syria condemned the singling out of specific States and said that the mandate of the Special Rapporteur should be ended.
Australia remained deeply concerned about the intimidation and arbitrary arrest of human rights and political activists, the suppression of the freedom of assembly, and the treatment of ethnic and religious minorities in Iran. Australia urged Iran to cease all executions, respect the human rights of all detainees and ensure that trials were conducted in a fair manner. The arrest and harassment of journalists was a matter of concern.
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia said that torture and ill treatment of prisoners continued to be practiced by security forces in Iran and the death penalty remained of deepest concern. According to some reports, more than 900 persons had been executed between 2011 and 2013, while Iran led the world in execution of juvenile offenders. In view of all of this, the mandate on Iran should be extended.
Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, speaking in a joint statement, expressed its dismay at the increasing presence of governmentally organized non-governmental organizations in the Council. Discriminatory selection procedures for candidates and the restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly meant that the Presidential elections would not be free. Widespread and systematic torture existed in Iran.
Organization for Defending Victims of Violence said that the human rights situation in Iran should be viewed in the context of imposed military threats and economic and social sanctions. The Special Rapporteur had ignored those immense threats affecting Iran, for example by ignoring the organized crime of drug trafficking.
Imam Ali’s Popular Students Relief Society said that the effects of unilateral and coercive sanctions imposed on Iran, which came mainly from the United States and the European Union, had placed enormous pressure on the country. In light of the biased sanctions imposed on Iran, the preparation and submission of a report by Iran was pointless.
Islamic Women’s Institute said that three decades of human rights resolutions issued against Iran had only resulted in the deepening of mistrust and had reduced the possibility of mutual understanding. In addition, Iran had had to endure the most damaging and harshest sanctions, particularly from the West. The Council should make use of its Universal Periodic Review mechanism instead.
Centre for Inquiry drew the Council’s attention to a report which was published yesterday by an organization called “Freedom from Torture”, detailing thousands of torture cases in Iran. The report clearly showed that torture was used extensively in Iran and that it was a State policy.