UN experts reiterate concerns over Iran’s religious freedom violations

UN experts reiterate concerns over Iran’s religious freedom violations

Korean committee member Changrok Soh posed the UN experts’ questions relating to Article 18 during the second of two three-hour sessions last month.

The UN Human Rights Committee has reminded Iran of its obligations, as a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to provide religious freedom to its citizens, including to adopt a religion of their choosing and to change religions.

In its concluding remarks following last month’s public assessment of Iran’s compliance with the ICCPR, the Committee said Iranians of all faiths should be able to “manifest [their] religion or belief without being penalised” and that members of non-recognised religious minorities must be “protected against harassment, discrimination and any other human rights violation”.

Iran must “immediately release those imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief”, and ensure they are provided with “adequate compensation”, it said.

The Committee said it “remains concerned by numerous reports indicating that religious minorities are victims of state-sanctioned human rights violations, including discrimination, arbitrary detention, torture, harassment and confiscation of property solely for practising their faith”.

It also called on the Islamic Republic to “repeal or amend” the amended Articles 499 and 500 of the penal code, which have been used to imprison several Christians since their introduction in 2021.

The Committee said it also “remains concerned by lengthy detention periods without trial, incommunicado detention in unacknowledged detention centres, and the lack of access to lawyers and communication with families, in particular with regard to journalists, human rights defenders, lawyers, members of minority groups, dissidents and protestors”.

And it highlighted “the deterioration of the situation of persons deprived of their liberty in prisons and formal and informal places of detention, including unsanitary conditions, overcrowding, bad quality of food and water, denial of medical care, as well as by torture and ill-treatment, including prolonged solitary confinement”. 

These concluding remarks follow two three-hour-long public hearings last month, at which a delegation from the Islamic Republic was asked to respond to concerns regarding its alleged non-compliance with the ICCPR, including Article 18, which relates to freedom or religion or belief.

Ahead of the meeting, the Committee had asked Iran to respond to “continuing reports of the restricted right to freedom of conscience and religious belief and discriminatory attitudes and practices against religious minorities, particularly those not recognized in law, including through the prohibition of holding religious services in Persian, closing of houses of worship on national security grounds and arbitrary arrests and detention of religious minorities, including Christians, for their practice of religious beliefs”. 

In its written response ahead of the meeting, the Islamic Republic claimed religious minorities in Iran, including Christians, “perform their own religious teachings freely”, and their human rights are respected, provided they “refrain from engaging in activities that breach public order, public safety and public security”.

Article18 submitted a joint report to the Committee ahead of the meeting, noting the “multiple layers” of religious-freedom violations experienced by Christians and other religious minorities in Iran, and suggesting several questions for the Committee to pose to the Islamic Republic.

You can read more about what was said during the two three-hour-long sessions last month here.

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