Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran

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Seventy-first session
Agenda item 68 (c)
Promotion and protection of human rights: human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives
Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran Note by the Secretary-General
The Secretary-General has the honour to transmit to the General Assembly the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, submitted in accordance with Human Rights Council resolution 31/19.

The Special Rapporteur submits the present report, his sixth to the General Assembly, pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 31/19. In his report the Special Rapporteur primarily presents information gathered from government sources and relayed by alleged victims of rights violations as well as civil society actors located inside and outside the country.

I. Introduction
1. Since 2011 the Special Rapporteur has observed several developments that could lead to positive changes in the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran. These include the publication of a draft charter of citizens’ rights; the emergence of a limited public dialogue on a handful of human rights issues, including the use of the death penalty for non-violent drug crimes; the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action; and legislative steps taken by the parliament to improve the protection of certain rights.
2. Most of these developments have not, however, yielded tangible or sufficient improvements in the country’s human rights situation, for reasons that will be further discussed below. Specifically, there is a notable gap between the law and State-sanctioned practices that violate fundamental rights. While recent legislative efforts to strengthen protections for the rights of the accused are noteworthy, they offer little relief in the absence of proper implementation and enforcement by the executive and judicial branches of Government.
3. Information gathered from government sources and civil society actors continues to highlight the arbitrary detention and prosecution of individuals for their legitimate exercise of myriad rights, as well as the use of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, following the enactment of these legal improvements. Human rights defenders continue to face intimidation, censure and retribution for their contact with the United Nations human rights mechanisms and international human rights organizations, and those alleged to have abused their authority continue to enjoy impunity. Other legislation, including the country’s anti-narcotics laws, which have not yet been amended, continue to violate the right to life.
4. The Special Rapporteur wishes to highlight the Government’s continued engagement with the special procedure mandate holders of the Human Rights Council, including through dialogue with his mandate and by way of recent invitations to the Special Rapporteur on the right to food and the Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral and coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights to visit the country.1 In its response to the present report, the Government asserts that it “has so far paved the way for the visits of seven thematic rapporteurs and working groups”.2 However, the authorities remain reticent with regard to repeated requests for country visits made by eight thematic mandate holders and the country-specific mandate holder since 2005, date of the last visit to the country by a special rapporteur.3
5. A total of 23 communications concerning pressing developments or emerging issues detailed in the present report and/or appealing for remedy were transmitted by the Special Rapporteur to the Government from January to mid-August 2016. Of these, 22 were urgent actions and 1 was an allegation letter joined by several thematic mandate holders. The Government responded to 7, reducing its rate of reply from 38 per cent in 2015 to 30 per cent during the reporting period. The Government also continues to respond, at length, to the Special Rapporteur’s reports, including the current one.
6. The present report contains primarily information gathered from government sources and relayed by alleged victims of rights violations, as well as civil society actors located inside and outside the country. This includes information gathered from government responses to communications transmitted jointly by special procedure mandate holders during the first seven months of 2016; information gathered from various websites maintained by branches and agencies of the Government; information published or submitted by non-governmental organizations located inside the Islamic Republic of Iran; laws and draft legislation; details presented in national stakeholder reports submitted by officials for the universal periodic review exercise in 2014; and information gleaned from statements published either by national media sources or by individual government officials.
7. The Special Rapporteur also relays information gathered from 43 interviews conducted during fact-finding visits to Stockholm, Berlin and Munich, Germany, and Turin, Italy, in May 2016. Information from additional interviews was collected via telephone, Skype and other messenger services during the reporting period from individuals located inside and outside the country.

II. Civil and political rights
8. On 26 November 2013, President Hassan Rouhani, highlighting his campaign promise to improve the protection of human rights, released a draft charter of citizens’ rights that addresses a range of civil and political rights guaranteed by Iranian law. Since its publication, however, no significant steps have been taken to either finalize or implement the charter’s provisions. The Government notes that it expects the charter to be finalized by “the end of the current year”. While applauding the effort, the Special Rapporteur notes that many of the charter’s provisions fail to sufficiently protect fundamental rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
9. The Government accepted 189 of the 291 recommendations that were the outcome of its universal periodic review in 2014, asserting that the majority of the recommendations had already been implemented, including the recommendation to strengthen its domestic legal framework and implement its international human rights obligations. Despite these commitments and the country’s legal obligations, the state of protections for the majority of rights guaranteed by the five human rights instruments to which the Islamic Republic of Iran is a party remains largely unchanged.

A. Right to life
10. The Government received 41 recommendations related to its use of capital punishment during the second cycle of its universal period review in 2014. They include recommendations to abolish the death penalty for juvenile offenders; to 

establish a moratorium for crimes not considered “most serious” by international standards; and to ban stoning and public executions. In April 2016, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called on the authorities to halt executions of juvenile and drug offenders and to institute a moratorium on the use of the death penalty altogether.4
11. Human rights organizations estimate that despite these appeals, between 966 and 1,054 executions took place in 2015, the highest number in over 20 years.5 Between 2416 and 2537 executions were reportedly carried out from January to the end of the third week of July 2016. This number is significantly lower than the number of executions carried out during the same period in 2015. In the light of the repeated concerns expressed by the Special Rapporteur and other human rights bodies and organizations, any decrease in the number of executions is a positive development. However, reports received by the Special Rapporteur suggest that the number of executions in the Islamic Republic of Iran increased again in July 2016, when human rights organizations documented at least 40 executions carried out during the first three weeks of that month (see figures I-III).8 As in previous years, the majority of the executions in 2015 and 2016 were for drug-related offences.

Figure I
Executions in the Islamic Republic of Iran, 2005 to July 2016 

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