The overall human rights situation in Iran has remained poor throughout 2006/07. Serious Human rights violations have continued and there has been significant deterioration in some of our main areas of concern, including a worrying and rapid increase in the rate of executions. As President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his government face international pressure over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and internal criticism for their economic mismanagement and other policies, paranoia has grown within the Iranian government .
About the threat that media and civil society organisations might pose to the integrity of the
Islamic Republic. This, in turn, has resulted in further restrictions on freedom of expression and association, and clampdowns on any form of dissent, opposition or organised protest. Charges such as “propaganda against the Islamic Republic”, “acting against national security” and “organising illegal gatherings” have become increasingly
There has been little effective action to reform laws or practices in order to improve the human rights situation and no notable engagement with the international community on human rights issues. An improvement in the situation looks unlikely in
The current political context.
Against a global decreasing trend in the use of the death penalty, the total number of executions in Iran is increasing year on year. Iran remains second only to China (whose population is over 15 times the size of Iran’s) in terms of total number of executions. Amnesty International estimates that Iran executed a total of 177 individuals in 2006,
A sharp rise and almost double the previous year’s total of 94. There have been approximately 300 executions in 2007, including the execution of at
Least four juvenile offenders.
In clear breach of its international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Iran is one of very few countries in the world that still applies the death penalty for crimes committed before the age of 18. There are reports of juveniles being kept in prison until they turn 18, when the sentence can be carried out.
According to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, over 70 juvenile offenders remain on death row in Iran. We are deeply concerned by this practice and have made representations in several cases. We are also concerned by the way in which executions are carried out. More executions are taking place in public – in August 2007, two convicts were hanged in a busy street in central Tehran. There has also been an increase in collective executions – up to 21 individuals at a time. July 2007 saw the first confirmed report of a stoning sentence being carried out since Iran announced a moratorium on the practice in 2002: a man was stoned to death in Qazvin province. He and his partner had been convicted for adultery and had already served 11 years in prison. Despite International outcry over this case, stoning sentences are still handed down by judges in Iran.
In an interview in October 2007, Mohammad-Javad Larijani, secretary of the Iranian judiciary’s human rights headquarters, said that stoning is neither torture nor a disproportionate punishment for adultery.
The death penalty remains on the statute books for consenting same-sex relations. We have not confirmed any executions for this in 2006 and 2007, but we continue to monitor the issue
Freedom of expression
Iran continues to deny its people the right to express their opinions freely and peacefully, and
Restrictions have increased over the last 18 months.
Censorship of the main media has continued. In September 2006, the Press Supervisory Board closed four reformist newspapers, including the leading daily Shargh. The board has revoked the publication licences of several other newspapers and magazines this past year. Journalists and editors have been arrested for printing articles deemed to be offensive or un-Islamic. The minister of culture and Islamic guidance recently accused the press of being part of a “creeping coup”. The internet continues to be a target of government restrictions, with access to many websites and blogs (which often provide news and critical commentary) Blocked. In early 2007, internet connection speeds were slowed down, probably to restrict access to foreign websites and audio-visual internet services, and an attempt was made to get all website managers and bloggers to register their websites
With a government agency.
There has been an alarming clampdown on any form of organised protest, whether teachers Demanding better wages, women’s rights activists campaigning against inequality, or students protesting for the right to freedom of expression.
A number of students from Tehran’s Amir Kabir University were arrested in May and June 2007.
Four were editors of student newspapers arrested for publishing an article deemed to be un-Islamic and anti-regime. (The students claim they were set up.) The other students were detained for organising and participating in gatherings to protest against these arrests. The families of the detained students claim they were tortured
A government social security campaign took place during the summer months. The first stage dealt with the issue of “bad hejab” (clothing deemed incompatible with the Islamic dress code law), while the second stage targeted “thugs and hooligans”. Thousands of police warnings were issued and a number of people arrested and charged. Police treatment of offenders was particularly heavyhanded.
Many saw this as an infringement of individual rights. Academic freedom has also been affected. The Intelligence Ministry issued a circular to faculties warning university professors against contact with foreigners and asking them to notify officials about
Trips overseas for academic or personal purposes.
Participants attending some conferences overseas were detained and questioned on return to Iran. Civil society organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are increasingly seen as a threat and a number have been declared illegal or even closed down. Organisations affected include the Centre for Human Rights Defenders, the
Non-governmental Organisations Training Centre and the Raahi Legal Centre, which offered legal advice for under-represented women. Four Iranian American dual nationals with links to international civil society organisations were arrested and detained for several months on counts of espionage and threatening national security. They were Eventually released on bail, after two had their “confessions” broadcast on state TV.
During a speech at Columbia University in September 2007, President Ahmadinejad claimed That Iranian women were the “freest in the world”. Although over half of Iran’s university students are women, men occupy all the most powerful positions. Gender inequality and discrimination are widespread, and are perpetuated by Iran’s constitutional structures. For example, a woman’s legal testimony is worth half that of a man’s; compensation (blood money) payable to the family of a female crime victim is half what is payable for a male victim; under civil inheritance laws boys receive double the amount girls receive. Securing Divorce and custody of children is notoriously harder for Iranian women.
Iranian women’s rights groups who have been campaigning for the government to address the issues of discrimination have also faced increasing pressure. In March 2007, days before International Women’s Day, 33 women’s rights activists were arrested outside a Tehran court building. They had gathered to support five women who were on trial for organising a women’s rights demonstration in June 2006 – a demonstration that was violently repressed by security forces. The women received prison sentences (some suspended) for “propaganda against the regime” and public order offences.
Despite being a member of the International Labour Organisation and a state party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and ICCPR, both of which protect the right to form and join trades unions, Iran’s fledgling labour rights movement has suffered similar restrictions on freedom of expression. Independent unions and strike action are not permitted. Between March and May 2007 large numbers of teachers across Iran held nationwide strikes and peaceful demonstrations to support a new pay system which would improve employment and wages (over half of all teachers live below the poverty line). Hundreds were arrested in Tehran, Ardebil, Hamedan and Kermanshah for
Participating in these protests.
Mansour Ossanlou, president of the Syndicate of Workers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, was forcibly detained by unidentified men on 10 July 2007 and taken to Tehran’s Evin Prison. He is being investigated for alleged distribution of propaganda against the regime. He has been arrested and detained several times over the last two years for involvement in peaceful industrial action taken by the bus workers’ union. Mahmoud Salehi, a labour rights activist with links to the Trade Association of Saqez Bakery Workers has also Been arrested several times for mobilising the labour movement. He is currently serving a one-year sentence for his involvement in the 2004 May Day rally in Saqez, Kurdistan province. Both men have reportedly been ill treated in prison and denied
Access to suitable medical care.
We remain concerned about the treatment of religious and ethnic minorities in Iran, many of
Who suffer discrimination and persecution.
Some individuals working to defend cultural rights, such as the Azeri activist Abbas Lisani, have been detained for their activities. The Iranian constitution recognises only three official minority religions: Zoroastrianism, Judaism and Christianity. The Bahل’ي faith is not formally recognised, and Bahل’يs routinely face persecution and discrimination.
Their access to employment and higher education is limited, they have had property confiscated or destroyed, and they have been subject to arbitrary arrests. Some Iranian newspapers have run a series of articles aimed at defaming the Bahل’ي faith, Without censure from the authorities.
Although nearly 200 Bahل’ي students were admitted to various universities in autumn 2006, many were subsequently excluded when their religion became known. Proselytising Christians and converts from Islam also face pressure – the crime of apostasy Carries the death sentence, although no execution has been carried out for over a decade.
Cruel and inhuman criminal punishments such as flogging, stoning and amputation remain on the statute books. Despite the announcement of moratoria on stoning and amputation, both Punishments reappeared in 2007. Amputation sentences have been carried out on at least seven people found guilty of robbery in Mashhad, Zahedan and Kermanshah. The head of Kermanshah’s Justice Office made a statement confirming that one of the sentences had taken place. He defended the use of amputation as a punishment, saying, “If thieves do not want their hands to be amputated then they must stop stealing.” Prisoners are often subjected to long periods of solitary confinement and denied medical care, and reports of torture taking place during the course of criminal investigations are frequent.
Engagement with United Nations bodies
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, made her first visit to Iran in September 2007. She attended a meeting of the non-aligned movement in Tehran and met women’s rights activists. The visit was marred by the police violently dispersing a group of protesters (including families of political prisoners) who had gathered to see her.
During the period covered by this report, no UN special rapporteur has been able to visit Iran, Despite Iran’s open invitation for all human rights monitoring mechanisms to visit.
Elections for local councils and the Assembly of Experts (the body responsible for choosing the supreme leader and monitoring his performance) were held in December 2006. The Interior Ministry and the unelected Guardian Council vetted candidates in advance and excluded hundreds of people from standing, including all female and many reformist candidates. It is hard to call these genuinely democratic and fair elections.
UK action and forward look
The longstanding policy of the UK and the EU is to support reform in Iran and stand up for the International human rights standards to which many Iranians aspire, including freedom of speech and transparent and accountable government. Our relations can progress only if Iran upholds its international commitments and demonstrates Genuine respect for human rights and fundamental
At present the human rights situation looks bleak. In the absence of a functioning EU–Iran Human Rights Dialogue (the dialogue has not taken place since June 2004, and Iran cancelled the last meeting scheduled for December 2006) we continue to work with international partners and human rights NGOs to maintain a spotlight on Iran’s persistent human rights violations. We raise issues of concern in our private bilateral and EU meetings with the Iranian authorities and strongly support, and often propose, other EU action, Including public statements. The EU raised human rights concerns with Iranian officials at least 28 times in 2007.
The UK also supports action at the UN. The EU co-sponsored Canadian-run resolutions on Iran’s human rights record at the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee in December 2006 and 2007.
These resolutions, adopted for the fourth and fifth consecutive years, provide a strong statement of international concern on a wide range of specific human rights issues in Iran. We hope that Iran will take this message seriously and work to address These concerns.