UN rapporteur highlights Iran’s arrest of Christians ‘for practice of beliefs’

UN rapporteur highlights Iran’s arrest of Christians ‘for practice of beliefs’

Javaid Rehman (UN Web TV)

The UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Iran has reiterated his “concern” at the regime’s “continued repression of religious minorities”, including arresting Christians “for the practice of their beliefs”.

In his latest report, released ahead of the 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council later this month, Javaid Rehman specifically references the arrest of at least 53 Christians between 1 January and 1 December last year “for the practice of their religious beliefs”.

He also highlights the “forcible closing of houses of worship on national security grounds”, and calls for the “release of all individuals arrested for the exercise of their rights to freedom of opinion, expression, association and peaceful assembly”.

Mr Rehman adds that Iran should “ensure in law and practice the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association” and “that any limitation on these rights is in accordance with international law”.

“[Iran’s] Government stated that minorities were respected and that Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians were free to perform their religious rites under article 13 of the Constitution,” he adds.

The primary focus of Mr Rehman’s latest report is “accountability for human rights violations” in Iran.

Previous reports have focused on other issues including the persecution of Christian converts.

However, in October last year Article18 joined seven other Christian organisations in publicly calling on Mr Rehman and the UN secretary-general, António Guterres, to “include specific reference to the main victims of FoRB [freedom of religion or belief] violations”, including Christians, in every report.

In joint letters to the two senior UN figures, we noted how neither the secretary-general’s report on Iran in May 2021, nor the special rapporteur’s January 2021 report, contained a single reference to Iran’s persecution of Christians, though both called more broadly for Iran to “end discrimination” against religious minorities.

In the letter to the secretary-general, we further queried why his report made no mention of the concerning amendments to Articles 499 and 500 of Iran’s penal code, which have been called a “full-on attack on the right to freedom of religion and belief” and are increasingly being used in the prosecution of Christian converts.

There was also no mention of these amendments in Mr Rehman’s latest report.