20 October 2008 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his concern over the rights of women and minorities in Iran, as well as over the death penalty, including juvenile executions and stoning, in a new report to the General Assembly on the country’s human rights situation.
Mr. Ban noted that thought the Middle East nation has made strides in boosting women’s education and health, along with progress in reviewing discriminatory laws, it “is faced with a number of challenges in gender equity and equality and empowerment of women.”
He pointed to the limited employment outside of the agricultural sector for women and to “widespread” gender-based violence. Further, stepped-up crackdowns against the women’s rights movement in Iran is also cause for concern.
The country’s constitution explicitly states Islam to be the State religion, but includes provisions for religious minorities.
The Secretary-General said that there continue to be reports of members of the Baha’i community facing arbitrary detention, false imprisonment, confiscation and destruction of property, denial of employment and Government benefits and denial of access to higher education.
“A significant increase has been reported in violence targeting Baha’is and their homes, shops, farms and cemeteries throughout the country,” he wrote, adding that there have been several cases of torture and ill-treatment of the group in custody.
The report said there has been a sudden surge of executions in recent months, and the UN Human Rights Committee has sounded the alarm over the “extremely high number of death sentences, many resulting from trials in which the guarantees of due process of law had not been properly applied.”
Despite a circular issued by the head of the judiciary in January 2002 prohibiting stoning as punishment, the practice has been reported to continue.
In another non-binding circular, the judiciary has placed a moratorium on juvenile executions, but the sentences are still being applied, Mr. Ban said.
Iran is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, both of which obligate States parties to not impose the death penalty on those who commit crimes under the age of 18.
“The age for criminal responsibility under Iranian law is set at 14 years and 7 months for boys and 8 years and 9 months for girls, which is not only discriminatory but also low by international standards,” the report said.
The new publication urged Iran to continue revising national laws, particularly the new Penal Code and juvenile justice law to bring them in line with international human rights standards. It also welcomes steps the country has taken to explore cooperation on human rights and justice reform with the United Nations.
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