Sunday, 2 November 2008

UN: Report of the Secretary-General on the situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran

Sixty-third session
Agenda item 64 (c)
Promotion and protection of human rights: human rights
situations and reports of special rapporteurs
and representatives

1 October 2008

Rights of minorities

54. The Constitution explicitly declares Islam to be the State religion, but contains two important provisions concerning religious minorities. Article 13 states that Zoroastrian, Jewish and Christian Iranians are the only recognized religious minorities who are free to perform their religious rites and ceremonies, within the limits of the law, and to act according to their own canon in matters of personal affairs and religious education. Article 14 also provides protection for non-Muslims, provided they refrain from conspiracy or activity against Islam and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

55. Reports continue to be received about members of the Baha’i community
Being subjected to arbitrary detention, false imprisonment, confiscation and
Destruction of property, denial of employment and Government benefits and denial of access to higher education. A significant increase has been reported in violence targeting Baha’is and their homes, shops, farms and cemeteries throughout the country. There have also been several cases involving torture or ill-treatment in custody.

56. The special procedures mandate holders have repeatedly raised the issue of the Baha’is with the Iranian authorities. Since June 2006, the Special Rapporteurs on freedom of religion or belief, the Independent Expert on minority issues and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention have repeatedly raised the issue of the arrest of 54 members of the Baha’i community in the city of Shiraz who were reported to have been involved in community work. Also on 24 April 2007, the Special Rapporteurs on freedom of religion or belief expressed concern that Baha’i students were subjected to harassment, vilification and other forms of abuse by their teachers and school administrators. It is alleged that the Baha’i students were forced to identify their religion and then were insulted, threatened with expulsion and, in some cases, summarily dismissed from school. In January and February 2007 some 150 such incidents were reported. Many of the students were informed they had been expelled because of their faith. Moreover, in June 2006, the ILO Committee of Experts concluded that no progress had been made in amending or repealing legislation that was contrary to the ILO Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention of 1958. The Committee also expressed continued concern regarding discrimination against members of recognized and unrecognized religious minorities and ethnic minorities. The Committee noted that discrimination against Baha’is remained particularly serious.

57. On 18 May 2008, it was reported that six members of the Baha’i leadership in
The country had been arrested and a seventh member had been detained
Incommunicado in Mashhad since 5 March 2008. Subsequently, on 23 May, the
High Commissioner wrote to the Iranian authorities asking for information on the
A/63/459 08-53075, 15 reports in the light of the obligations of the Islamic Republic of Iran under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to ensure that no one is detained arbitrarily and to uphold the right to freedom of religion or belief. The Iranian authorities insist that the arrests were made on national security grounds.

58. Other minority groups in the Islamic Republic of Iran are reported to have
Been subjected to a range of human rights violations. For instance, the special
Procedures sent a number of communications in connection with the Arab minority in Khuzestan. On 3 February 2006, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Special Rapporteurs on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression raised concern over the arrests of seven Arab minority people in the city of Ahwaz in Khuzestan Province on 11 and 12 January 2006 after clashes between Iranian security forces and members of the Arab minority community. On 31 August 2006, the Special Rapporteurs on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions drew attention to information he had received regarding a reportedly secret trial on charges carrying the death penalty of 22 Arab minority activists. On 13 November 2006, the Special Rapporteurs wrote again to the Iranian authorities in connection with the death sentences of 10 of the 22 individuals expressing concern over reports that they had been tortured to confess and had had no access to lawyers prior to their trials. The Iranian authorities insist that the arrests were made in connection with terrorist activities.

59. In addition, the special procedures have raised a number of communications
Concerning members of the Nimatullahi Sufi Muslim community, the Kurdish
Community, the Sunni community, the Baluchi community, the Azeri-Turk
Community and the Christian community who have reportedly been subjected to
Arbitrary arrests and torture, allegedly in connection with peaceful demonstrations for their rights, such as the right to speak their own language and to hold religious ceremonies.

60. Treaty bodies have also addressed the issue of the rights of minorities in the
Islamic Republic of Iran. As such, the Human Rights Committee expressed its
Concern at the extent of the limitations and restrictions on the freedom of religion
And belief, noting that conversion from Islam is punishable and that even followers of the three recognized religions are facing serious difficulties in the enjoyment of their rights. The Committee was particularly disturbed about the extent of discrimination against followers of non-recognized religions, notably the Baha’is, whose rights under the Covenant are subject to extremely severe restrictions (CCPR/C/79/Add.25, Para. 16). In 2003, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed its concern over the reported discrimination faced by certain minorities, including Baha’is, who are deprived of certain rights, and that certain provisions of the State party’s legislation appear to be discriminatory and on ethnic and religious grounds (CERD/C/63/CO/6, Para. 14). In 2005, the Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern that a large number of Baha’i students had not been admitted to university on the grounds of their religious affiliation (CRC/C/15/Add.254, Para. 59).

61. The Islamic Republic of Iran has been a long-standing and generous host to a
Substantial refugee population, particularly from neighbouring Afghanistan.
Following the voluntary repatriation of approximately 1 million Afghan refugees
From 2002 to 2004, the Bureau of Aliens and Foreign Immigrants Affairs under the Interior Ministry conducted two inclusive refugee registration exercises between A/63/459 16 08-53075 2005 and 2007. In 2008, the Bureau has conducted a third Afghan refugee registration exercise and is presently in the process of issuing the corresponding refugee card to more than 850,000 Afghan registered refugees. Commendably, it is foreseen that work permits will also be issued to refugees upon registration.

However, the Committee on the Rights of the Child noted that refugee children are currently being enrolled in schools only if their parents have registered with the authorities, and that the enrolment of refugee children was not being offered free of charge (ibid.).
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