11 March 2013 An independent United Nations expert today voiced serious concern about the general situation of human rights in Iran, pointing to “widespread and systemic” torture, as well as the harassment, arrest and attacks against human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists.
“The prevailing situation of human rights in Iran continues to warrant serious concern, and will require a wide range of solutions that are both respectful of cultural perspectives and mindful of the universality of fundamental human rights promulgated by the treaties to which Iran is a party,” said the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed.
Presenting his report to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, Mr. Shaheed said that Iran has made some “noteworthy advances” in the area of women’s rights, including advancements in health, literacy and in enrolment rates on both the primary and secondary levels.
“However, reports about recent policies that prohibit women’s access to a number of fields of study, further restrict women’s freedom of movement, and current polices that continue to impede women’s ability to hold certain decision-making positions in Government remain problematic,” he noted.
At the same time, a “preponderance of reports” communicated to him this past year indicate that that the situation for individuals in Iran who advocate for the advancement of human rights, or those that document, report, or protest against human rights violations, is “grave and continues to deteriorate.”
People who defend the rights of women, religious and ethnic minorities, as well as those that work to advance protections for the environment, workers and children continue to be subjected to harassment, arrest, interrogation, and torture and are “frequently charged with vaguely-defined national security crimes, which is seemingly meant to erode the frontline of human rights defence in the country,” said the expert.
“My current report also presents what appears to be unimpeachable forensic evidence that torture is occurring in Iran on a geographically widespread and systemic (across a number of Government branches) basis,” Mr. Shaheed stated.
He also voiced alarm at the high rate of executions that take place in Iran, a majority of which continue to take place for drug-related offences, which do not meet international standards for ‘most serious crimes.’
Last month Mr. Shaheed joined several of his human rights colleagues in calling on Iran to immediately halt the recent spate of arrests of journalists and to release those already detained, the majority of whom work for independent news outlets.
“We underscored our fear that the arrests carried out were part of a broader campaign to crack down on independent journalists and media outlets, under the accusation that they have collaborated with ‘anti-revolutionary’ foreign media outlets and human rights organizations,” he said.
It is also estimated, he added, that some 40 lawyers have been prosecuted since 2009, and that at least 10 are currently detained. In addition, it has been reported that 110 Baha’is are currently detained in Iran for exercising their faith; that at least 13 Protestant Christians are currently in detention centres across Iran; and that Dervishes, members of the Yarasen faith, and Sunni Muslims continue to be the subject of punitive activities, raising serious concern about the situation of religious minorities in the country.
Special rapporteurs are appointed by the Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.
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