CHRI – UN, GENEVA– Worrying patterns of intimidation, arrest, prosecution, and ill-treatment of human rights defenders, lawyers, and labour rights activists in Iran signal an increasingly severe State response to protests and strikes in the country, a UN expert said today.
Javaid Rehman, the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, said rising inflation, difficult working conditions, late or unpaid wages, falling living standards, and increased challenges in accessing adequate work, food, health care, and water was making life harder for many Iranians.
“Today, the people of Iran face a myriad of challenges,” he told the Human Rights Council in Geneva. “Many have voiced their concern through protests, demonstrations, and strikes. People from diverse sections of society – from truck drivers to teachers to factory workers – across the country have protested.”
“It is in this context of increased challenges that concerns are mounting about human rights, including the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and to association in Iran,” he said, calling on the Government to release all those detained for exercising such rights.
Presenting his first report to the Council, Rehman said the re-imposition of secondary sanctions by the United States of America had further increased concerns for the welfare of ordinary Iranians.
The Special Rapporteur welcomed positive developments including a significant reduction in the number of those executed for drug offences in 2018. He further described his engagement with the Government on issues of concern, reiterated his request to visit Iran, and invited the Government to engage with him on the substance and content of his report.
The report identified an issue of particular concern: the law that allows girls as young as 9 years old, and boys as young as 15 to be sentenced to death for certain crimes.
As a result, individuals aged below the age of 18 when they allegedly committed certain crimes have been executed in breach of Iran’s international obligations, he said.
Whilst acknowledging the efforts of the Government to support mediation and amendments to the Penal Code aimed at reducing the executions of child offenders, the Special Rapporteur said that at least six child offenders had been executed last year, and according to information received at least 85 remain on death row.
The Special Rapporteur also said that “the practice, illustrated in numerous cases reviewed, of waiting until the child offender reaches the age of 18 before execution, repeated postponements, and the inherent vulnerability of the child given his or her age, amounts to a pattern of torture and other ill-treatment”.
He further noted that he was following “in the footsteps of every relevant international human rights mechanism” and “also following debate within the country in this issue” in appealing to the Iranian authorities to abolish the practice of sentencing children to death, and to commute all death sentences issued against children in line with international law.
The Special Rapporteur also highlighted the alarming health situations of numerous imprisoned individuals such as human rights defender Arash Sadeghi.
More broadly on the right to health in the country, he said he was increasingly concerned about the impact on the availability and cost of medicines, medical services, supplies and equipment following the re-imposition of secondary sanctions by the US in November 2018 and related restrictions placed on financial transactions. He called on “all States to take all possible steps to ensure that humanitarian and procedural safeguards and exemptions prevent a harmful impact on the enjoyment of human rights in Iran in policy and practice”.
Rehman also highlighted the situation of prominent woman human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh who was reportedly convicted last week of charges related to her work and could face a lengthy prison sentence. Other issues raised in his report include concerns regarding the right to life and to fair trial, the situation of detained foreign and dual nationals, and the treatment of religious and ethnic minorities.
Javaid Rehman is a Professor of International Human Rights Law and Muslim Constitutionalism at Brunel University, London. Mr Rehman teaches human rights law and Islamic law and continues to publish extensively in the subjects of international human rights law, Islamic law and constitutional practices of Muslim majority States. Several of his published works have been translated into various languages. As a human rights lawyer, Mr Rehman has also provided legal opinions in various high-profile cases in a number of jurisdictions.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.