Press Conference by Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Situation in Iran

24 October 2013

Press Conference by Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Situation in Iran

24 October 2013
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

PRESS CONFERENCE BY Special Rapporteur on Human Rights situation in Iran

Despite positive signals by its new President for tangible and sustainable reforms, there must be concrete and demonstrable changes in Iran’s human rights situation, the Special Rapporteur on the issue, said at a Headquarters press conference today.

The country’s new Government, Ahmed Shaheed said, should address not only the legal system as a whole, but problematic long-term official practices that undermined basic rights, including freedom of expression, the right to assembly, freedom from arbitrary detention and the rights to a fair trial.

He stated that Iran’s laws, including the 1986 Press Law, the Computer Crimes Law and aspects of the Islamic penal code, allowed for the application of the death penalty for crimes that did not meet “most serious” standards, such as drug-related offences.

“The laws also includes the retention of cruel and inhuman punishments, such as stoning and amputation, and the retention of broad and poorly defined national security laws,” he pointed.

Mr. Shaheed, who had presented his latest report to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) yesterday, also highlighted the problematic Custodian Law, which allowed a man to marry his adopted or foster daughter at the age of 13.  The law undermined the Government’s responsibility to ensure the best interests of the child.  (See Press Release GA/SHC/4076.)

However, he welcomed the recent release and furlough of more than a dozen prisoners of conscience, including prominent human rights activist and lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, as well as human rights activists Mahboubeh Karami, Jila Karamzadeh-Makvandi and Majid Tavakoli, without conditions.  He then urged the Government to ensure the unconditional release of hundreds of other human rights defenders in detention.

Mr. Shaheed also disclosed that, to date, Government representatives had taken some steps to build a relationship with him that would enable him to carry out his mandate, although he had not yet visited the country.

As well, he commended Iran for accepting the necessity of a number of key reforms during its Universal Periodic Review and during its reviews by various United Nations treaty bodies.  It would be an opportune time for the Government to advance a bold policy to realize such public commitments and legal obligations.

Answering reporters’ questions on executions, Mr. Shaheed noted that there was still much to be done, not only on the number of executions, but also on the methods and the range of offences.  He said he had communicated with Iran authorities more than 20 times on his concerns and worries about executions in the country.

He also called for access to a fair trail and a moratorium on the death penalty.  He said he hoped that the Government would redress the issue and ensure that human rights considerations be central to its legislative and policy agenda, and to international dialogue and cooperation.

Responding to another question, he said that he had no political motivation or considerations in his report on the human rights situation in Iran, noting that he was independent and not paid by the United Nations in carrying out his duties.  He was only concerned about violations to human rights and dignity.

On sanctions, Mr. Shaheed said that Iran must live up to the expectations of the international community in addressing that issue.  The Government should make provisions to protect its vulnerable communities from economic difficulties.  A formal visit to Iran would enable him to properly assess the impact of sanctions on human rights in the country.

When asked about the situation concerning the Baha’i community, he said, there had been no change or improvement.  Those people were consistently not given adequate protection and were subjected to various forms of discrimination, ill-treatment, restrictions on religious practice and the denial of their rights.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.