Iran’s Guardian Council orders amendments to bill that threatens religious minorities

Iran’s Guardian Council orders amendments to bill that threatens religious minorities

Iran’s Guardian Council must approve every bill proposed by parliament. (Photo:

Iran’s Guardian Council has asked for amendments to be made to a proposed parliamentary bill that threatens to facilitate the further repression of religious minorities.

As Article18 reported last month, Iran’s parliament has proposed amendments to articles 499 and 500 of the Islamic Penal Code such that those found guilty of “deviant psychological manipulation” or “propaganda contrary to Islam”, whether in the “real or virtual sphere”, can be labelled as “sects” and punished with imprisonment, flogging, fines, or even the death penalty.

Reacting to the bill, human rights lawyer Hossein Ahmadiniaz, whose clients have included the jailed Christian convert Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh, told Article18 the law would “facilitate the repression and punishment of Christian converts and others belonging to unrecognised religious groups”.

But the Guardian Council, which must approve all parliamentary bills, has returned the bill to the parliament, seeking eight clarifications, the majority of which relate to overly “ambiguous” language.

Article18’s advocacy director Mansour Borji explained: “The Guardian Council, mostly comprised of Islamic jurists and lawyers, could have seen that this proposed amendment lacked the basic principles of legislation.”

He added: “The bill was so ambiguous and left definitions so wide open that judges could have violated people’s right to freedom of expression and belief by categorising them under this new amendment as ‘devious, unlawful acts’, which would go against all national and international commitments Iran has to safeguard those rights.”

However, Mr Borji warned that the bill is still likely to return in a few months’ time, in a different, “perhaps more minimal form, but still the purpose of this legislation, which was tightening control, could be served by using a more legal language that would have it pass through the parliament and the Guardian Council.

“Therefore, we shouldn’t let our guards down and relax, but must monitor the behaviour of the lawmakers and policymakers in Iran, who show an increasing pattern of abuse of religious freedom. Because such things are not rare and can happen at anytime, with an overwhelmingly conservative parliament and a government that on a daily basis is reported to have violated human rights. Therefore it calls for vigilance from all people involved in the field of preserving and promoting human rights.”