Iran again claims ‘no-one prosecuted for merely holding an opinion’

Iran again claims ‘no-one prosecuted for merely holding an opinion’

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Iran has once again denied imprisoning anyone because of their beliefs, in a strongly-worded response to the UN Secretary-General’s latest annual report on the the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic. 

“No one is prosecuted in Iran for merely holding an opinion or belonging to a particular class or group,” said a statement released yesterday by Iran’s High Council for Human Rights.

The statement also claimed that the UN report, released last week, was “politically motivated, biased and unfair”. 

The report called on Iran to “release immediately all persons detained arbitrarily for legitimately exercising their freedoms of opinion and expression, association and peaceful assembly”, “guarantee the right to freedom of opinion and expression”, and “protect the rights of all persons belonging to ethnic and religious minorities, and address all forms of discrimination against them without delay”.

However, there was no specific reference to the main victims of religious-freedom violations, other than a passing reference to the confiscation of properties belonging to members of the Baha’i faith. 

There was not a single mention of the plight of Christians, Jews, Gonabadi dervishes, Yarsanis, Sunni Muslims, nor any other religious-minority group. 

Last year, Article18 joined seven other Christian organisations in sending joint letters to the Secretary-General and Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, calling on them to “include specific reference to the main victims of FoRB [freedom of religion or belief] violations” in each of their reports.

The letters acknowledged that both figures have a broader focus on human rights and religious freedom in general, and also that the Special Rapporteur focused specifically on the persecution Christian converts in a previous report; however, the letters asked for consistency in naming the main victims of FoRB violations in every report.

They further noted how neither the Secretary-General’s report last year, 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.

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