49th Session of the Human Rights Council
28 February – 1 April 2022
Item 4: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Islamic Republic of Iran
17 March 2022
By Sivar Ahmed / GICJ
At the 33rd meeting of the 49th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council held on 17 March, Mr Javaid Rehman, the Special Rapporteur (SR) on the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran, presented his report to the Human Rights Council. In his report, he highlighted the alarming human rights situation in Iran, notably the high levels of impunity and the lack of accountability in the country.
The interactive dialogue focused on Iran's continued human rights violations. Many state delegates criticised Iran’s policies and legislative system for its inability to hold perpetrators accountable. In addition, many concerns were raised by the Special Rapporteur, state delegates and NGOs regarding the excessive use of force against peaceful protesters, the lack of investigations into the use of lethal force, arbitrary detentions of activists and individuals from minority groups, increasing levels of executions, threats and harassment of journalists and their families inside Iran, and last but not least, the alarming legislative developments that threaten women and girls in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Many delegations and NGO representatives shared the concerns of the Special Rapporteur. They requested Iranian authorities take the report's recommendations seriously and work closely with Mr Rehman to make necessary reforms and establish a robust governance structure that safeguards human rights. Geneva International Centre for Justice supports the recommendations that have been made by the Special Rapporteur and asks authorities in the Islamic Republic of Iran to cooperate with the SR to hold perpetrators of human rights violations accountable.
On 24 March 2011, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution re-establishing the mandate of a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The previous mandate established by the Commission on Human Rights was terminated in 2002. On 6 July 2018, Mr Javaid Rehman was appointed as the third Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran since the re-establishment of the mandate, where he commenced his duties officially on 13 July 2018.
In his first recommendations, he emphasised his intention to develop communication channels and cooperate with the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In addition, he asked for access to the country for better engagement with the Iranian people and authorities. His second report submitted to the Human Rights Council focused on analysing the situation of ethnic and religious minorities and other related issues that affected human rights in Iran in 2018. Finally, in the 49th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council, he presented his third report to the Council.
Report of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran
In report A/HRC/49/75 on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Special Rapporteur highlighted key areas of concern regarding the human rights situation in Iran, focusing on the impunity of perpetrators of human rights violations. The report referred to increases in execution cases in the country, including child offenders. In 2021, more than 280 individuals, including ten women, were executed, and in cases involving child offenders, children were executed without prior notice to their families. Last year, drug-related executions also increased, with many victims being minorities, including Baloch and Kurdish persons. One of the most concerning areas of human rights violations included in the report is the use of the death penalty by the Iranian government against protestors. In addition, the report includes infringements upon human rights, such as prohibiting prisoners from access to lawyers and obtaining confession under torture without subsequent investigation into such allegations.
The report examines the Iranian government's use of lethal and excessive force against peaceful protestors during two massive protests in July and November 2021. Both protests concerned access to water and the impact of the shortage on people's livelihoods. Protests in the Khuzestan province in July 2021 led to the death of at least eight individuals, including two children, and a high number of arrests. The report revealed that in Asfahan in November 2021, security forces used batons, tear gas and pellet guns against peaceful protestors, causing head and eye injuries, and resulted in the arrest of at least 200 individuals. One of the serious concerns raised by the report is that no investigation took place regarding the excessive use of force or of the Iranian government blocking access to the internet, preventing timely access to and sharing of information.
The report also revealed controversial legislative developments in the Islamic Republic of Iran. In February 2022, the Iranian Parliament adopted the general part of the regulated system for online services Bill, known as the "User Protection Bill", despite strong opposition from civil society against the Bill. The bill constitutes a major step toward consolidating a digital wall in Iran, resulting in separating Iran from the global internet. This bill will make access to information in Iran even more restrictive and will also signal that Iran excludes itself from the global information environment. The second highly concerning legislative development is the adoption of the "Youthful Population Law", which negatively impacts girls' and women's health and reproductive rights in Iran, including restrictions on access to contraceptives and information. And regrettably, this law will lead to the reversal of some of the achievements made by the Islamic Republic of Iran in the context of combating the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmittable diseases.
The report’s thematic focus is on the legal structure and policy implementations that are the cause of persistent impunity in relation to human rights violations of the most severe kind. However, many challenges could be addressed, and acknowledging them is the first step that could be taken to improve the situation. Among the first challenges that need to be acknowledged are Iran's current political structure and constitution, which are not designed to hold government authorities accountable. The report elucidated that the people cannot participate in decision making due to the absence of political pluralism and democratic participation. The Iranian people are left without an independent side to claim their rights when violated due to the lack of a separation of powers. Thus, acknowledging the problem will kickstart the necessary changes and reforms needed in the country.
The Special Rapporteur concluded his report by mentioning that the willingness of the government to take steps to pursue accountability is not the only problem, as there is a large scale of practice to silence those who call for accountability. Government practices of harassment and death threats against victims and families, including civil society initiatives, call for accountability. "In some cases, individuals are subjected to criminal prosecution simply for calling for justice. For example, human rights lawyers Arash Keykhosravi and Mustafa Nili and human rights defender Mehdi Mahmoudian were arrested and charged with national security crimes for merely planning a lawsuit against the authorities for mismanagement Covid-19 pandemic" said the Special Rapporteur.
Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur
Geneva, 17 March 2022 - At the 33rd meeting of the 49th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran held an interactive dialogue on the human rights situation in Iran.
The Special Rapporteur, Mr Rehman opened the meeting by mentioning that the Islamic Republic of Iran continues to deny his request to enter the country; at the same time, he thanked the Iranian government for its comments and for responding to his communication. He started the meeting by making brief points on the overall human rights situation in Iran and clarified that he welcomed any information from the government on the imposition of the death penalty. In addition, Mr Rehman highlighted the recommendations shared with the Iranian government regarding the User Protection Bill, but none of the shared suggestions was considered. Mr Rehman emphasised his readiness to cooperate with the Iranian government to implement reforms in the system of governance to be compatible with international standards. He called on the council to seriously examine the culture of reprisals in the country since it perpetuates violence without any consequences for state officials. In his closing remarks, he raised the necessity of taking serious steps to ensure accountability and stressed the role of the international community to take action in the absence and unavailability of domestic channels to hold perpetrators of human rights in Iran accountable.
The Iranian delegate Mr Esmaeil Baghaei Hamaneh denied the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and labelled it an egregious distortive report. Mr Hamaneh accused the UK of spearheading campaigns against his country by submitting such a report to the Council, which would not produce a credible outcome and claimed that states sponsoring this campaign didn't care about promoting and protecting human rights. Furthermore, he complained about the short time provided to the country in question to explain its position.
The European Union delegate Ms Lotte Knudsen welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur and raised concern over the ongoing inhumane and unjust practices of the death penalty in Iran. Ms Knudsen implored Iranian authorities to abolish the death penalty for all prisoners regardless of their offences and to ratify the convention against torture. She emphasised the EU’s concern regarding legislation that permits the marriage of female children at the age of 13 and the new law that enables greater restrictions on modern contraceptive methods. She also underscored that violations against the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly continue. Furthermore, the lack of separation of powers prevents perpetrators from being held accountable. The representative of the EU concluded her statement with these words “The report detailed emblematic examples of Iran’s failure to ensure accountability, including large scale use of lethal force against peaceful protesters, enforced disappearance, and arbitrary executions.”
The delegate of Iceland, Mr Harald Aspelund, spoke on behalf of the Nordic-Baltic Countries, and welcomed Mr Rehman's report, sharing his concerns regarding the absence of a system of accountability and continued human rights violations in Iran. He emphasised reforms that the Iranian government should implement to build a proper political and legal structure and the importance of judicial independence. In addition, he urged the Iranian government to abolish the death penalty for all offences and protect all rights both online and offline regarding freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. Moreover, Mr Aspelund shared the Special Rapporteur's concerns about the new family law and its consequences on women and girls' rights and urged the Iranian government to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur by granting full access to the country.
The Cuban delegate stated that imposing a mandate and resolutions against the state’s concern will not attain the desired result. Furthermore, the representative highlighted that the influence of western countries and their partners on the work of this Council led to discrimination and double standards, as witnessed in the special procedures and resolutions that have been taken against the Islamic Republic of Iran. She averred that Cuba is against politically motivated mandates. She emphasised that the work of the Council can be effective in protecting and promoting human rights through dialogue and cooperation and that the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is an effective mechanism to review and analyse the human rights situation in any country.
Similarly, the Chinese representative condemned the politicisation of human rights issues and emphasised that China believes that constructive dialogue and cooperation among countries are always better ways to advocate human rights. He stated that the enjoyment of human rights cannot be separated from the social, political, historical and cultural conditions of different countries. Furthermore, the representative requested the international community respect the political affairs of the Iranian government and their decision on how to implement policies to develop human rights in Iran. Finally, he urged the immediate lifting of unilateral coercive measures that the United States and other countries have imposed on Iran, which seriously impact the human rights and livelihood of the Iranian people.
The Special Rapporteur reiterated his request to Iranian authorities to give him access to the country. In his reply to the matter of the effect of the sanctions on the human rights situation made by Iran, Syria, China, Belarus and several other states, the delegate stated that the report contains recommendations for states imposing sanctions. He emphasised that at the same time, sanctions do not exempt states from fulfilling their obligations under human rights legislation as violations of international human rights law have no relationship to the imposition of sanctions. The Special Rapporteur stated that many delegations, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, accused the report of being politically biased and its information derived from terrorist organisations; thus, this is a clear example of the way in which the Iranian government views criticisms they don’t agree with, said the Special Rapporteur. Mr Rehman reiterated his request to the Iranian authorities to make the necessary reforms to build a system of accountability in line with international law, and he urged the international community, especially the Council, to seek accountability for events that have been met with persistent impunity such as the mass execution of 1988 and November 2019 protest. The Special Rapporteur encouraged the proposal that some states have suggested to introduce human rights conditions, including those related to accountability in any dialogue with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Mr Rehman repeated his deep concern on the alarming level of executions, especially those related to drug offences, “the fair trial violation, systematic use of torture and violations of due process rights means that most if not all executions in Iran constitute an arbitrary deprivation of life,” said the Special Rapporteur. He called upon the Council to condemn the continued executions of child offenders and recommended the Iranian authorities abolish the death penalty for all offences. Furthermore, he requested open, transparent and fair investigations into the use of excessive force in the November 2019 protest and all other occasions that witnessed the use of lethal forces. The Special Rapporteur implored the Iranian authorities to immediately release all political activists, human rights defenders, lawyers, laborers and women’s rights activists who have been arbitrarily detained. Mr Rehman raised concern regarding the increasing restrictions on the right to freedom of expression, internet shutdown during protests in Iran, and continued threats, intimidation and harassment of journalists. He asked the Iranian authorities to ensure the right of freedom of religion and belief for everyone to protect minority groups from discrimination. He concluded his statement requesting Iranian authorities to prohibit legislation in relation to early and forced marriage and repeal all laws which exonerate honour killing or permit violence against women.
Position of Geneva International Centre for Justice
Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) thanks the Special Rapporteur for his detailed report on the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran. We share his concerns regarding the alarming level of human rights violations in the country. GICJ requests the Iranian government to provide the Special Rapporteur with access to enter the country to continue his investigations into human rights abuses. Furthermore, we call on the international community, including the Human Rights Council, to support all investigations and trials to hold perpetrators of human rights violations accountable.
Discrimination against minority groups is deeply concerning and accordingly, GICJ petitions the Iranian government to abolish all laws and policies that further discrimination. The situation of women's and girls' rights are also among GICJ's serious concerns; the current legal age of marriage and the new family law will enable violations to continue against women and girls. Therefore, GICJ supports the Special Rapporteur's request of the necessity for reforms and change to establish a system of accountability and strengthen human rights in Iran. Furthermore, we reiterate our full support for the right to freedom of expression and freedom of media, and we condemn the violations committed against journalists and activists in Iran.
Human Rights Council, HRC49, Iran, special rapporteur, repot on Iran, justice, human rights, impunity, accountability, International Humanitarian Law, Geneva International Centre for Justice, GICJ, Geneva4Justice