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UN Special Rapporteur Issues Damning Report on the State of Human Rights in Iran

February 17, 2021
Faramarz Davar
5 min read
The latest report by Professor Javaid Rehman states that at least 233 people were executed in Iran last year
The latest report by Professor Javaid Rehman states that at least 233 people were executed in Iran last year
Three of these people were known to have committed crimes as children, before they reached the age of 18
Three of these people were known to have committed crimes as children, before they reached the age of 18
For the first time this year, Javaid Rehman’s report also notes that the Islamic Republic’s maltreatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people extends to children
For the first time this year, Javaid Rehman’s report also notes that the Islamic Republic’s maltreatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people extends to children

The Islamic Republic of Iran executed at least 233 people last year, according to a new report by Professor Javaid Rehman, the third United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran.

Among those executed were three people who had committed crimes as children, 11 who were sentenced to death on charges of moharebeh (war against God) or "corruption on earth", and 18 people sentenced to death on drug-related charges. In addition, 85 child offenders are currently on death row in Iran. According to the Iranian law, if a person commits a crime punishable by death before the age of 18, they will be executed when they turn 18.

The report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council covers the events of 2020, during which the Islamic Republic was racked by the outbreak of coronavirus but also by the same human rights abuses that have plagued the country for 42 years.

“The Special Rapporteur remains deeply concerned at the high number of death sentences and executions in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” its author states, “including for acts that do not amount to the ‘most serious crimes’ and following unfair trials.”

The report goes on to highlight the recent “alarming” reports of secret executions of protesters in the Islamic Republic, including those of Mostafa Salehi in August, and Navid Afkari in September, after they had taken part in anti-government demonstrations.

Elsewhere it also excoriates the government’s repeated targeting of journalists and writers inside and outside the country, citing such recent events as the jailing of three members of the Iranian Writers’ Association and the hanging of Amad News founder Ruhollah Zam in December.

For the first time this year, Javaid Rehman’s report also notes that the Islamic Republic’s maltreatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people extends to children. The death penalty can be imposed for consensual sexual activity between members of the same sex in the Islamic Republic of Iran, while members of the LGBT community are also denied the right to a fair trial and outside the courtroom, they face barriers to accessing healthcare.

This report newly states that LGBT children in Iran also face “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” and torture, citing reports that claimed some children had been subjected to electric shocks and strong psychoactive medications: a breach of thee International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Arbitrary Detention and Harassment

The report also criticizes the use of arbitrary detention against perceived opponents of the Islamic Republic such as lawyers and jurists, citing the cases of Nasrin Sotoudeh and Mohammad Najafi among others. Professor Rehman also expresses concern about the ongoing imprisonment of dual nationals such as Ahmad Reza Jalali, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Kamran Ghaderi, Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahabaz and Massoud Mosaheb, some of whom are facing serious health complications and have not had access to a lawyer, to say nothing of a fair trial.

The report also notes the ongoing harassment of some detainees’ families, highlighting the situation of the Bakhtiari family, whose son Pouya was killed by security forces during the November 2019 protests. His father Manouchehr, it notes, has “been subjected, together with other relatives, to repeated arrests, interrogations and threats for publicly calling for justice.”

Violation of Communities’ Rights

The report cites a number of recent violations of the rights of workers and trade unionists, journalists and media members, and women and girls. In the latter section, it states: “The Special Rapporteur remains alarmed at the continuing harrassment, arrest and imprisonment of women’s rights advocates, both women and men, including those campaigning against compulsory veiling laws.”

Gender discrimination, it adds, is still “pervasive” in political and judicial appointments, with the Islamic Republic of Iran ranking 181 of 193 countries in 2020 for women’s representation, while almost no women hold senior decision-making positions. Despite some efforts to increase the proportion of women in public sector positions, it states, female labour force participation in the country is still only 17 per cent.

The UN Special Rapporteur’s report also notes the alarming trend in child marriages across Iran, which it considers a form of forced marriage because one or both parties cannot give full, free and informed consent. Failure to increase the marriage age,” it states, “undermines measures aimed at protecting women and girls from domestic violence and negatively affects education and employment prospects.”

Ongoing restrictions on women and girls’ ability to participate in sports and cultural activities are also highlighted in the report. These restrictions include mandatory veiling, which has prompted some sportswomen to leave the country, the refusal of state television to show their participation in competitions, the refusal to display works by women artists and the still-extant ban on women singing in public.

The report also highlights issues faced by Islamic Republic in appropriately managing the outbreak of coronavirus within its borders, noting the government’s poor communication with the people and reluctance to apply stringent public health measures, in an attempt to avoid worsening the economic crisis. It does also state that despite strict exemptions for medicines, US sanctions have had an adverse impact on the health sector. According to this report, more than 300 Iranian health workers are known have died from Covid-19 disease in the past year; the true figure is likely to be much higher.

The Special Rapporteur also condemned the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a deputy defense minister and key behind-the-scenes figure in Iran's nuclear program, as an example of "arbitrary deprivation of the right to life." It added: “He [the Special Rapporteur] invites the Government to share further information to enable him to establish his views on the assassination.”

The 23-page report is scheduled to be presented at the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council. Following this, the UN General Assembly will vote on a draft resolution regarding the human rights situation in Iran.

Related coverage:

European Parliament Approves Magnitsky Sanctions Against Human Rights Abusers in Iran

Impunity, Courage and the Pandemic: IranWire's Review of 2020

Human Rights at the UN: A Yearly Struggle

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