Amnesty International: Human Rights Council should renew the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran

26 February – 23 March 2018

The Iranian authorities have continued to use the death penalty against juvenile offenders at a pace that appears to be accelerating; heavily suppressed freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly; and imposed increasingly harsh prison sentences against peaceful activists and human rights defenders. Torture is committed with widespread impunity; and floggings, amputations and other cruel punishments continue to be imposed and carried out.

Human rights defenders who have communicated with UN human rights mechanisms have faced reprisals by the Iranian authorities.

For these reasons, Amnesty International calls on the UN Human Rights Council to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran. This mandate has played a critical role in shedding light on violations taking place in the country and holding the authorities to account.

DEATH PENALTY

Iran’s widespread use of the death penalty remains of great concern. Iranian law still retains the death penalty for a wide range of drug trafficking offences. Iran also continues to use the death penalty for vaguely worded offences such as “enmity against god” (moharebeh) and “spreading corruption on earth” (efsad-e fel arz), which do not amount to an internationally recognizable criminal offense. People have also been sentenced to death for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of religion and belief. Despite being a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Iranian authorities have continued to use the death penalty against juvenile offenders. Between 2005 and 2018, Amnesty International recorded the execution of 88 people who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime. This includes four in 2017 and already three to date in 2018, of Amirhossein Pourjafar,4 Mahboubeh Mofidi5 and Ali Kazemi. Amnesty International has also identified at least 80 juvenile offenders on death row, including Abdolfazl Chezani Sharahi,7 Hamid Ahmadi8 and Abolfazl Naderi9 who are currently at imminent risk. The real number is likely much higher.

PERSECUTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS

Human rights activities increasingly cited as “evidence” of criminal activity include: discussing human rights violations on social media like Facebook or Twitter; having contact with victims of human rights violations and their families; denouncing human rights violations through media interviews; and signing petitions in support of human rights. Communicating about human rights concerns with nongovernmental organizations such as Amnesty International or with intergovernmental organizations such as the UN and the European Union has also become “evidence” of criminal activity. For example, the criminal case against Narges Mohammadi, who is serving a 16-year prison sentence, was opened after she met with the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs in 2014.12 In another case, Arash Sadeghi is serving a 19-year prison sentence imposed entirely for his peaceful human rights work, including communicating with Amnesty International.

Human rights defenders who have faced reprisal for sending information to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran include Mohammad Maleki, who has been subjected to a travel ban since September 2011 and Saeed Shirzad, who is serving a five-year prison sentence.

Women who have peacefully protested against compulsory veiling have also faced arbitrary detention and prosecution. Compulsory veiling has violated women’s rights in Iran for decades, including their rights to non-discrimination, freedom of belief and religion, freedom of expression, and protection from arbitrary arrests and detention, torture and other ill-treatment.

REPRESSION OF DECEMBER 2017 PROTESTS

The mass arbitrary arrests that followed the nationwide protests of December 2017, the lethal use of firearms by security forces against protestors, which resulted in the death of at least 25 people, and the number of deaths in custody have heightened concerns about systematic human rights violations in Iran.

According to MP Alireza Rahimi, by February 2018 some 4972 people had been arrested in relation to the protests. Amnesty International is alarmed at the scale of arrests, and believes that many of those arrested were targeted for peacefully protesting.

The Iranian authorities denied detainees’ access to lawyers during interrogations and there are grave concerns that they may use “confessions” made under torture and other ill-treatment as “evidence” in legal proceedings.

Since the start of the crackdown, there have been at least four deaths in custody. In three of the cases – Sina Ghanbari, Kavous Seyed-Emami and Vahid Heydari, the authorities announced immediately that the deaths were the result of suicide – claims which were strongly disputed by family members and activists.

On 13 January 2018, the death of a fourth man Saro Ghahremani who had been arrested during the protests and held in a Ministry of Intelligence facility in Sanandaj, Kurdistan province, was reported. His relatives said that his body bore marks of torture.

In all four cases, the authorities refused to allow independent investigations, including independent autopsies, and harassed and intimidated the bereaved families in an apparent effort to silence them.

Disturbingly, the authorities also resorted to propaganda tactics to demonize the deceased publicly. In the cases of Sina Ghanbari and Vahid Heydari, officials claimed that the men were “drug addicts” without elaborating on how this is relevant to the circumstances of their deaths.

In the case of Saro Ghahremani, Iranian officials stated that he was the member of “an armed terrorist group” and was shot dead during the course of an armed confrontation with security forces. His family disputed the claim.

The authorities’ refusal to handover Kavous Seyed-Emami’s body to his family unless no independent autopsy took place heightened concerns that he was subjected to torture. He had been arrested on 24 January 2018 on national security charges stemming from his peaceful environmental activism.

CONCLUSION

Amnesty International urges the Human Rights Council to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur to continue the important work carried out to date. Moreover we urge the Iranian authorities to cooperate fully with this mandate, as well as other mandates, and to take the following steps:

Death Penalty

– Abolish the death penalty for all drug-related offenses as a first step to abolish the death penalty for all offenses;

– Immediately establish an official moratorium on all executions, including those of juvenile offenders, and commute all death sentences without delay;

– Amend Article 91 of the 2013 Islamic Penal Code (IPC) to abolish the use of the death penalty for crimes committed by individuals below the age of 18, in line with Iran’s human rights obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Persecution of human rights defenders

– Immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly;

– End the abuse of the criminal justice system to repress peaceful activities that promote and defend human rights, including communication with international and regional human rights mechanisms;

– End the persecution of women who oppose humiliating and discriminatory laws banning women’s appearance in public without a headscarf and repeal Article 368 of the IPC.

Crackdown on protests

– Respect the right to peaceful protest and immediately and unconditionally release those held solely for peacefully taking part in demonstrations;

– Conduct independent, impartial and transparent investigations into the deaths in custody, the killings and reports of excessive or unnecessary force and ensure that anyone reasonably suspected of human rights violations is prosecuted in a fair trial;

– Protect all detainees from torture and other ill-treatment and ensure that they have access to a lawyer of their choice during interrogations.

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