Hold them accountable

United for Iran welcomes the recent report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, which catalogues widespread and systematic human rights violations in the Islamic Republic of Iran. In his report, presented to the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee on Wednesday, the Special Rapporteur states that the death penalty is regularly used in cases where due process rights were denied to the accused and for crimes that do not meet the international standard for serious crimes. United for Iran is deeply concerned that the number of individuals executed in Iran in 2011 may top 600 and reportedly include secret group executions. United for Iran calls on the Iranian government to extend genuine and immediate cooperation with the United Nations human rights system and to provide remedies to victims of human rights violations as stipulated in UNGA Resolution 60/147 of December 2005.

The alarming twenty-one-page report provides extensive information from first-hand testimonies, establishing a pattern of systemic violations of fundamental human rights in Iran. Fifty-eight individuals and their cases are noted in the report detailing the nature of abuses carried out against large groups of the Iranian population. Of the issues raised, the most urgent, according to the report, include deficits in the administration of justice, practices that amount to torture, cruel, or degrading treatment of detainees, the imposition of the death penalty in the absence of proper judicial safeguards, the status of women, the persecution of religious and ethnic minorities, and the erosion of civil and political rights.

In his annual report to the UNGA, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon stated that human rights violations “have continued and intensified”, particularly in the case of human rights defenders, women’s rights activists, journalists, and government opponents. The Secretary General also expressed concern about torture, amputations, arbitrary detention, unfair trials, as well as the overall curtailment of freedom of expression and assembly.

The UN Secretary General, UN special procedures, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights have all expressed concern over a dramatic increase in executions being carried out by the Islamic Republic since 2010. Despite urgent calls by UN officials for a moratorium on the death penalty, Iran has continued to execute its citizens in contravention of international law, Iran’s international obligations, and in many cases, its own legal and judicial standards. These violations include the application of the death penalty for juvenile offenders and for individuals who have committed non-serious crimes, such as drug-related crimes, sodomy, and moharebeh (or ‘enmity against God’); as well as the executions of individuals in secret and without prior notice or knowledge of their lawyers and families; and executions wherein due process rights were denied to the accused or forced confessions were used for convictions.

In 2010, Iranian officials acknowledged the executions of 252 individuals in Iran, while Amnesty International stated that over 300 more executions were carried out in secret. The Special Rapporteur has stated that in 2011, over 200 officially confirmed executions, and at least 146 secret executions, have taken place. Collective data gathered by United for Iran from credible human rights organizations monitoring executions puts the total number of executions over 600, ninety-six in the month of September alone. At least three political prisoners and four juveniles were among those executed. At least thirty executions have taken place in public despite strong condemnations by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN special procedures. Also, according to the report of the Special Rapporteur, four percent of executions announced in Iran’s state media stipulated no charges, and at least one hundred juveniles are reportedly on death row.

Despite dozens of resolutions passed since the mid 1980s by the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Commission calling on Iran to fulfill its international human rights obligations, Iran has failed to improve its human rights situation. Iran has refused to allow UN special procedures to visit the country since 2005, heightening international concerns about the situation in the country. Since 2004, Iran has maintained one of the highest numbers of communications sent by UN special procedures alleging serious human rights violations. It maintains one of the lowest rates of reply to these formal allegations highlighting its lack of cooperation with the international human rights system. The Government’s failure to respond adequately to questions in its review by the Human Rights Committee on October 17-18 further demonstrates its willful neglect toward its legal obligations.

UN member states should demand genuine cooperation from Iran to ensure real improvement in the human rights situation. For cooperation to be genuine, it must be measurable and verifiable. Iran should 1) acknowledge that human rights violations have occurred in the country; 2) provide unhindered access to the country by the UN Special Rapporteur, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, other UN special procedures, and journalists; and 3) verifiably commit to remedy violations recommended by the Secretary General and Special Rapporteur. These include the release of all political prisoners, including those mentioned by the Special Rapporteur in his report; the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment (CAT); and the revision of national laws to ensure compliance with international human rights standards.

United For Iran strongly urges UN member states to provide support to the mandate of the Special Rapporteur with an eye toward ensuring remedies for victims. UN member states should demand genuine cooperation from the Iranian Government through measurable set of indicators and timeline. In the absence of such cooperation and ongoing impunity in the country, UN member states should work to provide justice and accountability for Iranian victims through international bodies.

1. Data on execution from 2003 through 2010 was gathered from Amnesty International. Prior to 2010, secret executions were not reported. Data for 2011 were gathered from the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran and the Human Rights Activists News Agency. Officially confirmed executions were verified with state official reports or state media. The proportion of estimated secret executions was calculated using a statistical analysis of 100 community samples and extrapolating the resulting proportion to the entire studied community.

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