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.