UN condemns ‘deteriorating’ human rights situation in Iran

UN condemns ‘deteriorating’ human rights situation in Iran

The UN General Assembly has passed a draft resolution highlighting the “deteriorating” human-rights situation in Iran, including “lethal force resulting in death against peaceful protesters”, as well as “ongoing severe limitations and increasing restrictions on the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief”.

The resolution, which was co-sponsored by 41 countries including the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel and a host of EU nations, was passed on Wednesday by a margin of 52, with 80 votes in favour, 28 against and 68 abstentions.

In a discussion before the vote, the representatives of several countries, including Canada, Australia, the UK and US, voiced concern at Iran’s response to the ongoing protests, with the UK representative calling the killing of more than 326 protesters and arrest of over 14,000 “truly abhorrent”.

“The death sentence announced last week for a protester signifies a shocking worsening of the situation,” the UK representative said.

The German representative highlighted the upcoming “special session” on Iran, scheduled to take place in Geneva next week, a move welcomed by the UK representative, who said he hoped  it would “mandate a robust investigation into protest-related human rights violations in Iran”. 

“It is time [the Iranian people’s] fundamental freedoms were upheld,” he said, “including the rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of expression and speech both online and offline. 

“Iran’s leaders must choose another path. Now is the time to stop blaming external actors, to hold up the mirror and start listening to the voices of their people.” 

The New Zealand representative said his country had “suspended indefinitely” bilateral dialogue with Iran, as “we’ve determined that bilateral approaches on human rights with Iran are no longer tenable”.

Panama’s vote in favour of the resolution was added after the vote, at the request of Panama’s representative.

What does the resolution say about religious freedom abuses?

The Australian and New Zealand representatives specifically highlighted the plight of religious minorities in Iran, with the Australian representative calling their discrimination “unjustifiable”, and New Zealand’s representative calling their mistreatment “systemic oppression”.

The resolution expresses “serious concern at the widespread restrictions on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association and freedom of expression”, and “attacks against places of worship and burial and other human rights violations, including but not limited to the increased harassment, intimidation, persecution, arbitrary arrest and detention of, and incitement to hatred that leads to violence against, persons belonging to recognized and unrecognized religious minorities, including Christians (particularly converts from Islam), Gonabadi Dervishes, Jews, Sufi Muslims, Sunni Muslims, Yarsanis, Zoroastrians, and … Baha’is”.

It calls on the Iranian government to “cease monitoring individuals on account of their religious identity, to release all religious practitioners imprisoned for their membership in or activities on behalf of a minority religious group”, and  “to ensure that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief, including the freedom to have, to change or to adopt a religion or belief of their choice, in accordance with its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”.

It also calls on the Islamic Republic to “eliminate, in law and in practice, all forms of discrimination on the basis of thought, conscience, religion or belief, including restrictions contained in article 499 bis and article 500 bis of the Islamic Penal Code”.

As Article18 has reported, the amended Articles 499 and 500 were passed into law in early 2021 and have since been used in the prosecution of at least 10 Christian converts, including six now serving prison sentences.

‘Urgent Question’ in UK parliament

On the same day the draft resolution was passed in New York, an “Urgent Question” was brought before the UK parliament in London regarding the current situation in Iran and the treatment of protesters, during which the Iran regime’s persecution of Christians was also highlighted.

“I’d like to ask [about] the Christian community in Iran,” said Conversative MP Tom Hunt. “Just this last Friday I met with someone who fled Iran, is a Christian, and is now a key part of the local church in [the town of] Ipswich. What steps [are] the government taking to support the Christian community in Iran and [the] many people who are fleeing persecution?”

In response, David Rutley, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, said it was “a very good question” on “a subject I feel very strongly about as well”, and promised that he and other colleagues “raise those issues about Christians [with the UK government], but not just Christians – other minorities as well in Iran – which we absolutely need to do.”

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