Article18 calls for renewal of mandate of UN rapporteur on human rights in Iran

Article18 calls for renewal of mandate of UN rapporteur on human rights in Iran

Article18 has joined 38 other rights groups in calling for the renewal of the mandate of the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman.

The renewal of Mr Rehman’s mandate is set to be voted upon at the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council, where he presented his latest report earlier this week.

In a joint letter sent today to all member states of the Council, we say the renewal of the mandate by at least another year is “essential in light of the persistence of widespread and systematic violations of human rights committed by Iranian authorities with total impunity”. 

Our letter goes on to detail the myriad ways in which the Iranian authorities fail to comply with their international rights obligations, including continuing “systematic violation” of freedom of religion or belief.

Christian converts are among the Iranian religious minorities facing “discrimination and persecution for expressing or practising their faith or beliefs”, the letter notes.

Our letter details how the Iranian authorities continue to “routinely arbitrarily arrest, detain and sentence individuals to prison terms and flogging for the exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly”.

Article18 reported last year how two Christian converts, Mohammad Reza (Youhan) Omidi and Zaman (Saheb) Fadaie, were given 80 lashes each for drinking wine as part of the traditional Christian ritual of Holy Communion.

The letter notes how the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention “raised alarm at a ‘familiar pattern of arrest and detention that does not comply with international norms’”.

Last month, Article18 reported how this same working group had found Iran guilty of arbitrarily detaining Christian convert and pastor Yousef Nadarkhani.

The letter also highlights how Iran continues to “systematically violate” fair-trial provisions including through “incommunicado detention”, such as that of Christian convert Fatemeh (Mary) Mohammadi, who was held incommunicado for a month after participating in protests following the downing of Ukrainian passenger plane PS752 and subjected to shocking abuse, including having to remove her clothes and perform naked sit-ups as prison officers watched.

The UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions recently condemned Iran for its “multiple human rights violations” in the downing of PS752 and response to subsequent protests, including how “hundreds of individuals were arrested and subjected to physical and psychological torture and ill-treatment … for the purpose of extracting confessions, with families denied information about the individual’s fate and whereabouts in some cases”.

Our letter also highlights the concerning new provisions to the Penal Code, which we say “further criminalise the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, religion or belief”. 

Article18 noted last month how the two amended articles of the penal code – articles 499 and 500, relating respectively to membership or organisation of “anti-security groups”, and “propaganda” against the state or in support of opposition groups – were used in the prosecutions of every one of the more than 20 Christians currently in prison on charges related to their peaceful religious activity.

Our other observations include:

  • That Iran remains second only to China in the number of executions carried out each year.

  • That there is pervasive discrimination against women and girls in Iran, as well as persons belonging to ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities, or those identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).

  • That violent crackdowns on protests have become intertwined with the imposition of Internet shutdowns or disruptions in recent years.

  • That the authorities continue to fail to investigate and prosecute crimes and human rights violations committed in the context of the violent repression of the nationwide protests of November 2019.
  • That there is entrenched discrimination against ethnic minorities in Iran, including Ahwazi Arabs, Azerbaijani Turks, Baluchis, Kurds and Turkmen.

  • That conditions in many prisons and detention facilities in Iran are cruel and inhuman, with prisoners suffering from overcrowding, bad ventilation, lack of adequate food, poor hygiene and sanitation and inadequate access to toilet and washing facilities.

  • That despite such conditions providing a breeding ground for infectious diseases, Iranian authorities have failed to adequately resource prisons to control the spread of Covid-19 and treat infected prisoners, and excluded prisoners of conscience, including Christians, from temporary releases or pardons announced to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and deliberately denied them access to adequate health care. 

It is in light of these observations, we say, that Mr Rehman’s mandate “continues to be critical” in monitoring, documenting and reporting to the Human Rights Council on “steps taken by Iran to uphold its human rights obligations or of its failure to take such measures”. 

We say the rapporteur’s mandate “draws the attention” of the Human Rights Council “to the voices of victims”, while his findings and recommendations “steer and inform the efforts of UN bodies and member states to encourage Iran’s authorities to undertake long overdue human rights reforms and hold them to account for human rights violations”.

“It is essential to engage with Iranian authorities on issues of concern,” we say, “and to make potentially life-saving urgent appeals and other communications.”

The letter concludes by calling on the UN members states to support the renewal of the mandate, “to press Iran to give unfettered access to the Special Rapporteur”, and to “voice concern at the dire situation of human rights in Iran and send a strong message to the Iranian authorities that the cycle of impunity must be broken, and that members of the Human Rights Council expect without delay the adoption of long-overdue human rights reforms and tangible improvements to the human rights situation in the country”.

You can read the full letter and see the list of signatories here.

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