HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE WITH THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON THE HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN IRAN
17 March 2014
The Human Rights Council, at its midday meeting today, held an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed.
Mr. Shaheed, introducing his report, regretted that he had still not been allowed to visit Iran. While the report presented a number of positive overtures, hundreds of individuals reportedly remained in some form of confinement for exercising their fundamental rights, including journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders, Baha’i, Sunni Muslims, Christians and Dervish Muslims. Rhetoric and modest steps taken to date were yet to translate into the kinds of deep reform needed to respond to human rights concerns raised by the international human rights system and human rights defenders. The report focused on malfunctions in the administration of justice, including due process of law, abuse of solitary confinement, and the failure to take into account the principle of proportionality in passing sentences.
Iran, speaking as the concerned country, said that the meeting came at a critical time, when people of the world were experiencing suffering, including due to unilateral coercive measures. The Human Rights Council had a special responsibility to pave the way for the better promotion and protection of human rights across the globe. The report and mandate of the Special Rapporteur were not objective. While a few references were made to some positive steps by Iran, the report was mostly a compilation of unfounded allegations. It paid no attention to Iran’s significant achievements in different fields, and ignored that women in Iran were educated and participated in society.
During the interactive dialogue, some speakers welcomed the report and expressed concerns about the human rights situation in Iran, including the high number of executions, restrictions on the rights to freedom of religion and freedom of expression, including on the internet, and the situation of political prisoners and religious minorities. Participants urged Iran to raise the minimum age for criminal responsibility, to review the cases of those children who had been sentenced to capital punishment prior to the ratification of the new Islamic Penal Code, to ensure the right to a fair trial, to put an end to amputations and to abolish the death penalty. Some delegations also urged Iran to further engage with United Nations human rights mechanisms and to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur.
Other delegations complained that the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Iran demonstrated the politicisation of human rights in contravention of the Council’s mandate, and denounced the employment of country-specific mandates as contrary to the spirit of constructive cooperation and engagement for the promotion and protection of human rights. Some participants urged the Council to note the positive developments in Iran and reiterated the need for the consent of the country concerned for the success of its mandates. The Universal Periodic Review was the appropriate forum to address human rights situations of all countries in a constructive and equal spirit of engagement. The Council should eliminate all country-specific resolutions and mandates, including on Iran.
Speaking during the interactive dialogue were: European Union, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Germany, Australia, Norway, Syria, Belgium, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Canada, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, France, China, Ireland, Viet Nam, Maldives, Belarus, Pakistan, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom, Italy, Sudan, United States, Czech Republic, Botswana, Cuba, Russia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Switzerland, and Myanmar.
The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor during the interactive dialogue: Baha’i International Community, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik (joint statement), European Centre for Law and Justice, Iranian Elite Research Centre, Prevention Association of Social Harms, Islamic Women’s Institute of Iran, Maryam Ghasemi Education Charity Institute, and Lawyers for Lawyers.
The Council is today holding a full day of meetings and this afternoon, at 3 p.m., it will hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar.
The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (A/HRC/25/61).
The Council has before it the report of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (A/HRC/25/75).
Statement by the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Iran
AHMED SHAHEED, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, said while he was pleased to have met with and discussed a range of important human rights issues with Iranian officials, in both Geneva and New York, he regretted that he had still not been allowed to visit Iran. That was truly disappointing as Special Procedure mechanisms derived strength and utility from the ability to reach out beyond the meeting halls of Geneva and New York; to visit countries, meet with Government officials, non-governmental organizations, and the victims of human rights violations. While the report presented a number of positive overtures, hundreds of individuals reportedly remained in some form of confinement for exercising their fundamental rights, including journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders, Baha’i, Sunni Muslims, Christians and Dervish Muslims. Rhetoric and modest steps taken to date were yet to translate into the kinds of deep reform needed to respond to human rights concerns raised by the international human rights system and human rights defenders. The current draft of the Citizen’s Rights Charter fell short of strengthening protections for the equal enjoyment of human rights for women and minorities. It did not address the use of cruel, inhumane or degrading punishment, including flogging, hanging, stoning and amputation. It did not ban the execution of juveniles. Nor did it address concerns about the use of capital punishment, in particular for offences that did not meet international law standards for the most serious crimes.
The report focused on malfunctions in the administration of justice, including due process of law, abuse of solitary confinement, and the failure to take into account the principle of proportionality in passing sentences, said Mr. Shaheed. Despite existing laws and policies, violations had occurred and the laws were flouted by individuals and groups with impunity. Mr. Shaheed recalled that execution for drug-related crimes was illegal under international law. He continued to call for a moratorium on the death penalty in Iran. Real and lasting change took time, and turning around the situation of human rights in a country could not happen overnight. It was important that concrete steps were taken, and that the international community remained steadfast in its encouragement of the recent deepening of Iran’s engagement. The international community must also continue to send a message to every single Iranian whose rights were violated that it was aware, that it cared, and that it would continue to take steps, in cooperation with the Iranian authorities to address those violations. It was important to work together to bridge the gulf between international commitments and implementation, between doing and saying.
Statement by the Concerned Country
Iran, speaking as the concerned country, said they were meeting at a critical time, when people of the world were experiencing suffering, including due to unilateral coercive measures. The Human Rights Council had a special responsibility to pave the way for the better promotion and protection of human rights across the globe. Iran was firmly committed to the promotion and protection of human rights at the national and international level, provided that they were purely professional and free from political bias. The report and mandate of the Special Rapporteur were not objective. While a few references were made to some positive steps by Iran, the report was mostly a compilation of unfounded allegations. It paid no attention to Iran’s significant achievements in different fields, and ignored that women in Iran were educated and participated in society. The Special Rapporteur had paid slight attention to Iran’s comments, and so the report fell short of minimum standards.
European Union welcomed the report, which offered critical information on the situation in Iran. It strongly encouraged Iran to implement the recommendations. The European Union expressed grave concern about the high number of executions, restrictions to the right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression, including on the internet, and the number of political prisoners. United Nations Children’s Fund welcomed the amendment to Iran’s Criminal Code to prevent the execution of juvenile offenders, and urged Iran to raise the minimum age for criminal responsibility. It also urged Iran to review cases of children who had been sentenced to capital punishment prior to the ratification of the new Islamic Penal Code. Improvements in the conditions and rehabilitation programmes for minors serving sentences were welcomed. Germany appreciated the release of a number of human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience, and demanded the release of all persons imprisoned for advocating for human rights. The numbers of executions had reached a sad record last year, including of juvenile offenders and in public.
Australia remained deeply concerned by the situation in Iran, including the high number of executions, including of minors, as well as the harassment of human rights defenders, internet censorship and the situation of religious minorities. Australia also demanded that Iran ensured the right to a fair trial and put an end to amputations. Iran should further engage with United Nations human rights mechanisms. Norway was deeply concerned regarding the lack of guarantees for a fair trial and by the extensive use of the death penalty in Iran. Norway urged Iran to abolish the death penalty. Norway was also concerned about continuing restrictions of the right to freedom of expression and of the rights of religious minorities.
Belgium expressed concern for prevailing impunity in Iran, arbitrary detention of individuals for peacefully exercising their fundamental rights to expression, and the high rate of executions, in absence of fair trial, especially for crimes that did not meet serious crimes standards. New Zealand welcomed the more moderate and measured tone from Iran’s leadership, but was disappointed that many human rights indicators had not improved and in fact some had deteriorated. Execution rates remained high, political activists, human rights defenders and religious and ethnic minorities were often persecuted and there was ongoing discrimination against women. Canada noted the attention paid in the report to access to justice and the due process of law and asked the Special Rapporteur whether he would appeal to the Government to be allowed to visit the country to investigate human rights violations.
Syria said establishment of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran was a demonstration of biased political motivations against the country. Syria regretted that the report ignored progress made by Iran and did not concentrate on the negative effects of unilateral sanctions against it. It was time to put an end to country-specific mandates. Sri Lanka said positive developments in the country must be acknowledged and reiterated that international action for the promotion and protection of human rights must enjoy the consent of the country concerned. Zimbabwe said it did not subscribe to the imposition of country-specific mandates because they were politicized, selective and manipulated by powerful members with hidden agendas. The most appropriate tool to address gaps in promotion and protection of human rights in a country was the Universal Periodic Review. Venezuela rejected the anachronistic practice of country-specific mandates which were causing damage to the United Nations system. It was important to adopt a serious manner of addressing serious human rights situations which would reject the meddling of powerful countries.
France called on the Iranian authorities to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur whose work was essential to document the real evolution of the rights and freedoms of Iranians. The report was of great concern. The practice of executions had reached alarming proportions. The death penalty was applied to many crimes that went far beyond the most serious crimes. How could the Iranian authorities be convinced to open a debate on the death penalty? China said that all countries should, on the basis of equality and mutual respect, engage in cooperation and dialogue in the promotion and protection of human rights. The Council should abide by the principles of impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity and engage in the promotion of dialogue and cooperation. China welcomed the efforts made by Iran in the promotion and protection of human rights and understood that it faced challenges in that field.
United Kingdom said it was disappointed that Iran had prevented the Special Rapporteur from visiting the country, urging it to cooperate fully with him and afford the access to the country that his mandate deserved. What steps should Iran take to ensure that all its citizens were treated equally, regardless of race or ethnicity, it asked. Maldives welcomed recent pledges by Iran to address human rights concerns and took note of Iran’s decision to release high profile political prisoners. However, it was concerned by reports of arbitrary detention. Iran should engage constructively with the United Nations system in an open, transparent and non-politicized manner. Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia remained concerned by the situation in Iran, particularly the application of the death penalty, the number of executions in 2014, and in particular executions of juveniles. Minority rights were also a concern. Iran was urged to grant access to the country and to make an effort in ceasing reprisals against individuals cooperating with the United Nations human rights mechanisms. Ireland expressed concern that the draft Charter on Citizen’s Rights in fact contained no new rights. The Charter as currently drafted failed to address laws that discriminated against minorities and women and did not prohibit the execution of juveniles. How could the international community assist Iran to bring its legislation into accordance with its international human rights obligations?
Belarus reaffirmed its position that human rights issues in a global context and with respect to individual countries should be part of a constructive and non-politicised dialogue. The activities of the Special Rapporteur were used to justify sanctions against Iran. Belarus did not accept country-specific mandates, it said, emphasizing use of the Universal Periodic Review. Pakistan welcomed the steps taken by Iran for the protection and promotion of human rights, which should be acknowledged. Pakistan was against country-specific mandates as they were against the spirit of cooperation and dialogue, and strongly preferred the Universal Periodic Review, which was a cooperative mechanism. Viet Nam said it hoped to hear more good news as a result of Iran’s continuing efforts and commended it for its commitment to promote the aspirations of its people. Promotion and protection had to be based on the principle of sovereignty and genuine dialogue. The Council was urged to further encourage Iran in its efforts on regional and international cooperation.
Italy was confident that Iran would take into serious consideration the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur and fully cooperate with the mandate. Italy was looking with interest and expectation at President Rohani’s declarations on human rights. While appreciating the improvements in criminal procedure, Italy encouraged Iran to rectify its flaws and paid close attention to the on-going national debate on freedom of opinion and expression. United States said that while Iran had changed its rhetoric on human rights it continued to repress freedom of expression, the practice of jamming satellite signals, and the treatment of minorities, including the recent execution of minority activists. Hundreds of lawyers and human rights defenders remained in detention. The United State called on the Council to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and on Iran to allow access to the mandate holder.
Sudan stressed that the promotion and protection of rights was an international concern. The consent of the concerned countries was crucial for the success of the mandates but Sudan encouraged Iran to engage in a constructive dialogue in the spirit of openness and cooperation. Czech Republic appreciated recent attempts by Iran to engage with the international community and hoped that its pledges would translate into action. The release of prisoners of conscience was noted, but concerns remained about remaining detainees. Much remained to be done to improve the judiciary and end the repression of lawyers.
Botswana appreciated the positive developments in the reform of justice administration, including new laws on criminal procedures and the Charter of Citizens’ Rights. Particular focus should be given to laws and practices infringing on education, discrimination, and freedom of expression. Reports of arbitrary detentions and detention conditions that violated international standards, as well as the situation of reporters and lawyers, were also serious concerns. Switzerland said significant problems remained in Iran, such as the death penalty and torture and violation of rights of women and minorities. It asked the Special Rapporteur why the Baha’i community was subject to growing oppression despite their being very discrete, and whether strengthening of political freedoms could be expected.
Cuba said that the existence of a Special Rapporteur on Iran was an example of the double standards and discrimination that had taken root in the Council. It expressed its opposition to politicised and selective mandates against the States of the global South. The Council would be effective in its task of promoting and protecting rights only through cooperation and dialogue, and its work should go hand in hand with the country in question. Mandates imposed without consent were doomed to fail. Russia supported the measures undertaken by Iranian leadership to improve human rights in the country and called for non-politicized dialogue with the Government, based on mutual understanding and cooperation.
Democratic People's Republic of Korea said country-specific mandates infringed upon sovereignty and interfered with internal affairs of developing countries. Imposing pressure on countries under the pretext of human rights was unacceptable and in violation of international norms and principles. The Council should eliminate all country-specific resolutions and mandates, including on Iran. Myanmar said that country-specific mandates were counter-productive and never created honest dialogue between the mandate and country concerned. The Council must eliminate from its work double standards and politicization.
Baha’i International Community said that there had been no improvement in the situation of the Baha’i in Iran and the draft citizen’s charter failed to address laws and policies that discriminated against religious minorities. Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, speaking in a joint statement, expressed hope that the situation in Iran would remain at the forefront of the global agenda and supported the Special Rapporteur’s call for a moratorium on the death penalty. Could Iran’s Civil Rights Charter be improved, it asked?
European Centre for Law and Justice thanked the Special Rapporteur for the work carried out. Despite what Iran said, the reality on the ground was that human rights for religious minorities had not improved. It was important that the international community met words with action. Maryam Ghasemi Education Charity Institute said that for years now Iranians were paying for being near some of the biggest drug distributers. Over two thirds of prisoners in Iran were drug distributers or addicts. There had been no pathology for the transit of drugs in Iranian society. Lawyers for Lawyers, in a joint statement, shared all concerns raised including Government action targeting lawyers and the erosion of the independence of the legal profession. Grave concern was expressed about reprisals against founders and members of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders.
Iranian Elite Research Centre said that the frequent use of the words ‘reportedly’, ‘alleged’ or similar words while attributing human rights violations to Iran denoted the lack of strength in evidence and document set forth in the report. In some cases it seemed as though the Special Rapporteur was trying to impose a distorted reality of the regulations of Iranian society. Islamic Women’s Institute of Iran believed the way in which the Special Rapporteur criticized the number of executions during the nine months of the new Government was not constructive. Iranian society was dynamic and many current positive developments were the result of positive movement of Iranian civil society and this was an opportunity for the international community to start a real dialogue. Prevention Association of Social Harms said that it believed that the Iranian Government had to take further steps to improve the human rights situation. The report had not dealt sufficiently with subjects which had extensively affected Iranians such as the targeted, unilateral sanctions imposed on Iran.
AHMED SHAHEED, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, in closing remarks, said that the current situation in Iran was one of conflicting signals: on the one hand, there were positive developments and a sense that the new administration was moving to fulfil its promises. On the other hand, there was the continuation in executions and the capriciousness in dealing with freedom of the media, women, minorities and others. In terms of what could be done next, Mr. Shaheed stressed the importance of constructive engagement by all parties and suggested that the drafters of the Citizen’s Rights Charter look at the recommendations made by independent and credible bodies and the recommendations Iran had accepted during its Universal Periodic Review, in order to improve the draft. Concerning the methodology used in the preparation of the report, the Special Rapporteur said that it had not been prepared solely on the basis of interviews with Iranians abroad, but also with Iranian citizens in the country and the reports Iran prepared for human rights treaty bodies.
For use of the information media; not an official record