Friday, 21 October 2011

UN: the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights: The situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran

The 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 members of 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 16/9.

The Special Rapporteur officially assumed responsibility for the mandate on
1 August 2011 and has since notified the Secretariat that, owing to his late
appointment, he would not be in a position to present a substantive report, but would
focus instead on presenting his proposed methodology and cataloguing the most
recent trends in the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
This would emphasize the need for greater transparency and cooperation from
the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Religious and ethnic minorities

59. The Special Rapporteur is also concerned by reports of targeted violence and
discrimination against minority groups. Members of recognized and unrecognized
religious and ethnic minorities such Arabs, Azeris, Balochs, Kurds, Nematullahi
Sufi Muslims, Sunnis, Baha’is and Christians are reportedly facing a wide range of
human and civil rights violations. These include encroachment on their rights to
freedom of assembly, association, expression, movement and liberty.

60. The Special Rapporteur is concerned about reports of violations against the
Baha’i community, which, despite being the largest non-Muslim religious minority,
does not enjoy recognition as such by the Government. Its members have
historically suffered multifaceted discrimination, including denial of jobs, pensions
and educational opportunities, as well as confiscation and destruction of property.
According to information received by the Special Rapporteur, at least 100 members
of the Baha’i community, including seven community leaders2 are currently

imprisoned in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The majority of those detained allegedly
face national security-related charges and have undergone judicial proceedings that
lacked due process and fair trial standards.

61. In addition, recognized religious minorities reportedly face serious constraints
in the enjoyment of their rights and are subjected to severe limitations and
restrictions on the freedom of religion and belief. For instance, the Special
Rapporteur notes that conversion from Islam is still punishable. Articles 13 and 26
of the Constitution recognize Christianity, granting Christians the right to worship
freely and to form religious societies. Article 14 obligates the Government to uphold
the equality and human rights of Christians. However, Christians in the Islamic
Republic of Iran are reportedly subjected to limitations on their freedom of religion
and various forms of religious discrimination. This is said to be particularly true of
Protestant Christians, most of whom are newly converted. The Intelligence Ministry
is reported to closely monitor Protestant congregations and to routinely summon or
detain members of Protestant groups for interrogations, during which individuals are
questioned about their beliefs, church activities and other church members and are
often urged to return to Islam. In this regard, some Protestants reported having been
threatened by intelligence officials with arrest and apostasy charges if they did not
return to Islam. This pattern of harassment has reportedly resulted in the operations
of most Protestant churches going underground, where church services and Bible
studies are conducted in private homes.

62. The Special Rapporteur was particularly disturbed by a recent ruling of the
Supreme Court that upheld a death sentence for Yousef Nadarkhani, a Protestant
pastor, who was reportedly born to Muslim parents but converted to Christianity
when he was 19 years old. The verdict reads that, unless he decides to renounce his
Christianity, Mr. Nadarkhani will be executed by hanging. This is an emblematic
case of religious intolerance and State-sanctioned violations of the right to freedom
of religion and belief, a fundamental freedom guaranteed by international
instruments. Behrouz Sadegh-Khanjani, pastor for the Church of Iran in the city of
Shiraz, was also detained, in June 2010, and was reportedly held incommunicado in
solitary confinement for approximately two months. Authorities originally charged
him with apostasy, but later dropped that charge and charged him with “blasphemy”
instead. He is currently awaiting trial under this charge.

63. Sufi Muslims in the Islamic Republic of Iran are also subjected to limitations
on their freedom of religion and various forms of religious discrimination. This is
particularly true of members of the Shia Sufi order, Nematollahi Gonabadi.

Authorities sentenced Gholam-Abbas Zare-Haqiqi, a Gonabadi leader, to four years
in prison in October 2009, for allowing a burial at Sufi cemeteries, a banned
practice. On 13 April 2011, authorities arrested eight Gonabadi dervishes by the
names of Abdolreza Kashani, Shokrollah Hosseini, Alireza Abbasi, Ali Kashanifar,
Mohammad Marvi, Nazarali Marvi, Ramin Soltankhah and Zafarali Moghimi. The
men had been part of a group of dervishes previously sentenced to five months in
prison, 50 lashes and one year’s exile on charges of “disrupting public order”,
mainly for assembling in front of the Gonabad Justice Department and prison to
protest the detainment of a leader of the order.

2 Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saied Rezaie, Behrouz Tavakkoli, Vahid Tizfahm, and Mahvash Sabet are the seven members of the Baha’i faith who had been detained since 14 May 2008 and who went on trial on 12 January 2010 for charges including “acting against national security, espionage and spreading corruption on Earth. They have each been sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment.

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