UN expert says human rights should be at the heart of the response to challenges faced

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Mounting challenges in Iran should be met by a constructive response which places international human rights law at its heart, said Javaid Rehman, the new Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran.

While noting “potentially diverging views, including on the mandate itself”, the Special Rapporteur said he hoped to “build on the cordial cooperation” extended to him thus far through “constructive engagement” with Iran, and hoped to visit the country.

Presenting his first report to the General Assembly following his appointment in July, the Special Rapporteur welcomed the decision by Iran to amend its drug-trafficking law which led to a marked reduction in the number of those executed for drug offences.

The Special Rapporteur also expressed alarm that Zeinab Sekaanvand was executed on 1 October, noting that “she was the fifth juvenile offender executed this year” following a trial raising numerous due process concerns. He also recalled that there were numerous juvenile offenders currently on death row in Iran, including Mohammad Kalhori, Mehdi Khazaeian, Mohammad Haddadi, Pouria Tabaei, and Saleh Shariati. The Special Rapporteur appealed to the Iranian authorities to abolish the practice of sentencing children to death, and to commute all death sentences issued against children in line with international law.

“The challenges facing people in Iran these past months has been illustrated by numerous protests across the country,” the Special Rapporteur said. He said that the protests were fuelled by discontent relating to the enjoyment of economic and social rights and urged “the Government to both address the grievances underlying the protests, and also safeguard the right to freedom of association and assembly”. “In challenging times, the right to freedom of opinion, expression, and access to information are all the more important.” he added. 

Explaining that he will seek to address economic and social rights in the course of his mandate, the Special Rapporteur said he also intended to assess the possible negative impact of sanctions on the enjoyment of such rights.

He further described a number of long-standing issues of concern which he will seek to address including with respect to the right to life and to a fair trial; the recent arrests and treatment of human rights defenders, other civil society actors, and lawyers; and the rights of women, foreign and dual nationals, and groups in vulnerable situations in Iran.  The Special Rapporteur, in particular, expressed concern and alarm at the treatment of religious and ethnic minorities.

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