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Iran Negated 14 International Obligations in One Year

March 19, 2020
Faramarz Davar
7 min read
Iran Negated 14 International Obligations in One Year

The Islamic Republic of Iran has had a record-breaking year for violating international law. This article lists those international obligations broken by Iranian authorities.

Hostages Convention: Taking foreign nationals and dual nationals hostage is a long-standing tradition in the Islamic Republic of Iran, but this year the tradition was honoured more strongly. Earlier this year, authorities arrested Fariba Adelkhah, a French-Iranian citizen, along with another French citizen in Iran. Islamic Republic officials have reportedly tried to issue demands to the French government for their release.

In another move this year, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British national of Iranian descent, was forced to continue her imprisonment in Evin Prison despite being eligible for conditional release. At stake is a £400 million British debt to Iran. Commenting on the arrest of Zaghari-Ratcliffe in an effort to resolve the dispute, the Iranian ambassador to London, Hamid Baeidij-Nejad, said in the last days of the Iranian year that "the British government has a new approach to the release of Nazanin Zagheri, and bilateral talks on paying the debt to Iran have continued. The two sides are looking for new ways to resolve the debt."

At the same time, a US court convicted the Islamic Republic of violating the Hostages Convention and ordered it to pay fines and damages to the family of missing American Robert Levinson who is believed to be in Iran.

Treaty on State Frontier and Neighbourly Relations Between Iran and Iraq: After the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp, Qods Force, by the United States in Iraq, Iran retaliated and targeted a US airbase on Iraqi soil and in doing so violated its long-term commitment to Iraq's airspace and national sovereignty. The move is in direct violation of the Iran-Iraq Border and Neighborhood Treaty signed four years before the February 1979 revolution. Iraq has complained about Iran's action to the UN Security Council.

Kidnapping Rules: The Abduction of Rouhollah Zam, co-founder of the Amad-news Telegram channel, violated international standards. Kidnapping means unlawful movement and transfer of a person without the consent of the person from place to place, by force, threat, or deception, and then depriving them of freedom or detaining them. Another person who was kidnapped by the Islamic Republic of Iran in a similar manner was Rasul Danialzadeh, a defendant in a major financial corruption case.

Convention on the Law of the Sea: In the summer of 2019, the Islamic Republic of Iran violated the Convention on the Law of the Sea. The IRGC seized a Swedish oil tanker crossing the Strait of Hormuz under the UK flag. The Convention on the Law of the Sea says that when a vessel crossing the Strait has no other choice but to cross the waters of ​​a country, it is considered to be "international" and the coastal state not only cannot impede the free passage of the vessel, but should not interfere with the movement of the vessel, even making them to stop for a short period.

Iran has been a permanent protester of the Convention since it was established and has said it recognizes this right only for countries that also follow it. Britain is a party to the Convention and recognizes the principle, but the IRGC detained a British oil tanker for weeks which is an unlawful act of violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Sea

Convention on the Rights of the Child: Iranian security forces committed deadly shootings of children during a bloody crackdown during the November 2019 protests, which began in protest at rising petrol prices, according to Amnesty International. Amnesty announced that Iranian security forces had killed at least 23 children during nationwide protests in November 2019. The report follows earlier reports on the arrests and detention of student protesters. According to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, executions of those who had committed a crime under the age of 18, considered to be children, continued this year. With these deadly measures, the Islamic Republic has grossly violated the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation: Earlier this winter, the Iranian government issued a statement by the General Staff of the Armed Forces officially accepting that it had shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane over Tehran that led to the deaths of 176 passengers. According to the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, states must refrain from firing on civilian aircraft. The Revolutionary Guards violated the Civil Aviation Convention by firing rockets on the passenger aircraft and failing to enforce flight safety and security regulations.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights: During the crackdown on the November 2019 protests, the Islamic Republic fired on civilian protesters in the port city of Mahshahr on the Persian Gulf and elsewhere across Iran. Hundreds of Iranians were killed in the crackdown by the armed forces of their own country. This is a gross violation of the right to life set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which the Islamic Republic of Iran has committed.

Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols: Another dimension to suppressing the November 2019 protests is kidnapping people from hospitals and medical centers as well as interrupting the process of recovering the injured and beaten. The Islamic Republic has a duty to uphold the "right to treatment" of Iranian citizens to the highest possible degree, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, ratified before the 1979 Revolution; Iran is still committed to the Conventions, but by suppressing the protests it violated those rules.

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: With the November 2019 protests, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the protesters "miscreants" which was followed by the violent suppression of the protests. Peaceful protest is a right and protecting the rights of citizens by the Islamic Republic is an international obligation under the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Islamic Republic regime calls any protest an attack on security, peace, and destruction of public property and the protesters are targeted and suppressed and prosecuted. This policy is a violation of Iran's international obligations.

Comprehensive Joint Plan of Action [JCPOA]: In spring 2019, in response to the US withdrawal from the JCPOA (also known as the Nuclear Deal) a year ago, Iran reduced its commitment to this agreement and finally announced in winter that it would end all its obligations under this agreement except for IAEA supervision. In its first report after Iran's decision, the IAEA Director-General said that the Islamic Republic of Iran had violated key points of the JCPOA agreement.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Safeguards Agreements: The IAEA, in winter 2020, stated that the Islamic Republic had violated some of the provisions of the Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA and at three sites, previously not declared as nuclear facilities, nuclear and radioactive materials had been discovered.

Additional Protocol to Agreement for Application of Safeguards: According to the March 2020 IAEA report, the Islamic Republic of Iran has violated its obligations under the Additional Protocol and has not granted IAEA inspectors access to three sites contaminated with radioactive material. According to the Additional Protocol, the IAEA may request access to sites even where there is no suspected nuclear activity. According to the parts of the JCPOA agreement that Iran continues to adhere to, it should implement the Additional Protocol. The agreement allows the Agency to halt the possible covert nuclear activities of countries – but the Agency has stated that Iran has not responded to and violated requests under the Additional Protocol.

International Health Regulations: The Islamic Republic is a member of the World Health Organization and is committed to enforcing the International Health Regulations. These rules are based on the right to health. In the crisis of the deadly coronavirus and COVID-19 outbreak in Iran, Islamic Republic authorities have covered up the presence of the virus in Qom and prevented it from being quarantined, as well as refusing to cancel the February 11 rallies and February 21 Majles elections, while also continuing flights to and from China which was the origin of the virus. The Islamic Republic failed to comply with its "right to health" obligations – violating international health regulations and the Iranian government's obligations.


The past year has seen a record number of violations of international law by the Islamic Republic. More than ten international conventions and commitments have been blatantly violated. Five UN Special Rapporteurs have warned that the Iranian government's conduct in harassing writers and journalists abroad is worrying; they also highlighted Iran’s readiness of Iranian authorities to use extra-territorial force overseas, in violation of international law. Not only did the Islamic Republic of Iran breach more than ten treaty obligations this year, refusing to comply with some of the basic principles of international law and regulation, but it has also used force outside its borders and against its own citizens.



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