Damning UN report on Iran human rights

The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, has submitted a damning report regarding the Iranian regime’s wide-ranging human right abuses, including the continued house arrest of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi.

The 21-page report emphasised “the need for greater transparency and cooperation from” Iranian authorities and requested that the special investigator be granted access to both detention centres and those detained in Iran to assess the allegations of human rights violations against the country’s rulers.

Shaheed’s report, which lists “a pattern of systemic violations of … fundamental human rights” in Iran, consists of six sections: “Treatment of civil society actors”; “Freedom of assembly”; “Women’s rights”; “Religious and ethnic minorities”; “Capital punishment”; “Detention for relations with foreign entities”

The investigation found that among of the most “urgent” issues concerning the abuse of human rights in Iran were “multifarious deficits in relation to the administration of justice, certain practices that amount to torture, cruel, or degrading treatment of detainees, the imposition of the death penalty in the absence of proper judicial safeguards, the status of women, the persecution of religious and ethnic minorities, and the erosion of civil and political rights.”

Shaheed’s report also points out the extensive “use of physical and psychological mistreatment and torture” as a means of obtaining self-incriminating confessions from political prisoners. The study found that the most common accusations against activists and journalists were “acting against national security; (b) participating in an illegal gathering; (c) insulting the Supreme Leader; and (d) spreading propaganda against the regime.”

Another issue highlighted by the report was the “exorbitant bail requirements,” (between $10,000 and $500,000) as a way of ensuring that defendants appear before the court. It adds that “deeds used to guarantee appearances were never returned to the guarantors, even after acquittals or final convictions” which led to “a disturbing level of persistent punishment, even beyond the conclusion of the cases.”

The UN report also expressed “deep concern” over reports suggesting that prosecutors had been aware of the rulings to be handed down to defendant prior to their trial, indicating “a lack of independence” of the judiciary.

While Shaheed was “encouraged” by the announcement by Iranian authorities on 28 August 2011 of their intention to pardon 100 individuals arrested in the aftermath of the rigged 2009 presidential race, it requested that Iran provide him with information about the process and the criteria employed for granting amnesty.

Another “deeply disturbing” part of the report was the conditions of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi currently under house arrest and a “denial” of their rights.

The two, along with their spouses, were placed under house arrest after calling for opposition protests in support of the Arab Spring in mid-February. The UN document expressed concern over the absence of any formal charges as well as their loss of “control over their health care, access to publications, privacy and the ability to live a normal life.” A witness communicated to the special investigator that Mousavi’s family had been “deeply concerned about his health, as he had reportedly lost a significant amount of weight.” In addition, all of Karroubi’s phone lines were disconnected and “authorities had entered Mr. Karroubi’s home and removed his television and all of his books and files.”

Members of the Mousavi and Karroubi family have been reportedly harassed and intimidated.

The UN document also paints a grim picture of disregard for the basic rights of journalists. It mentions the torture, forced confessions, solitary confinement of journalists such as Ahmad Zeidabadi, Mohammad Davari and Issa Saharkhiz, arguing that the tragic death of activist and journalist Reza Hoda Saber in detention, had raised “further concerns about arbitrary arrest and detention and the treatment of civil society actors.” The troubling situation of other civil society groups such as student activists, artists, lawyers, and environmentalists, were also highlighted in shaheed’s review of the human rights abuses in Iran.

The judiciary officials’ regular use of capital punishment was another issue in the limelight. The Special Rapporteur voiced his concern over the frequent use of executions, as well as its regular usage in cases where due process rights are denied to the accused. “[A]larmingly high” number of executions, “often carried out without the knowledge and presence of families and lawyers,” was another matter of grave concern indicated in the document. There are also “widespread” reports of the “application of the death penalty for crimes that do not meet the international standard for most serious crimes,” the report said.

Iran is reported to have had more than 200 officially announced executions in 2011. At least 83 persons, including three political prisoners, are known to have been executed in January 2011 alone, according to the report. In 2010, more than 300 secret executions were reportedly carried out at Vakilabad prison “without the knowledge or presence of the inmates’ lawyers or families and without prior notification to those executed.”

The Special Rapporteur called on the Iranian Government to facilitate the activities of civil society actors and to “refrain from repressing dissent”. It also requested that Iran “launch full investigations” into cases of ill-treatment against political prisoners.

The publication of the report has seen mixed responses from Tehran.

On Monday, Hossein Naghavi Hosseini, the spokesperson for the Iranian Parliament’s human rights committee said that Iran was prepared to examine Ahmad Shaheed’s report.

However, Iran’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Eshagh al-Habib slammed the report’s findings on Wednesday, saying the assembly’s decision to appoint a special rapporteur in the first place was the “result of a one-sided approach and political ambition of certain countries in particularly the United State and its Europeans allies.”

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