Yesterday, 19 March 2015, the Human Rights Council considered the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI). The IRI had previously submitted their reply to the Working Group of the UPR. (Read the full reply here)
Out of the 291 recommendations that the IRI had received during the UPR Session in November 2014, they accepted 130 recommendations entirely. They also accepted 59 recommendations partially explaining that full implementation of those recommendations would have been contrary to the “IRI constitution, basic laws and Islamic values”. However, the IRI rejected 102 recommendations entirely, which include the majority of the genuine and principle recommendations.
Although the IRI has accepted 65 percent of the recommendations either entirely or partially, most of those recommendations are either too general, or, empty praises that totally ignore serious violations of human rights in Iran. The majority of these recommendations came from Iran’s allies who were very active during the UPR session and tried their best to add as many friendly recommendations as possible. This clearly has paid off as the IRI authorities proudly claim that they have accepted a great majority of the recommendations. Below are some examples of the recommendations accepted entirely by the IRI:
Those recommendations that did not receive full acceptance of the IRI have supposedly included some parts that the IRI were not willing to accept. Although, it does not make it clear which part is rejected or accepted and leaves it to the audience to conclude from other parts of the reply. This, for example was the case where the recommendations were about allowing visit to the UN Special Rapporteurs or accession to a number of international conventions. Partial acceptance in these cases apparently meant to single out, respectively, allowing visit to the Special Rapporteur on Iran Dr. Shaheed, and accession to the CEDAW or CAT, which the IRI had expressly rejected.
The volume and quality of the rejected recommendation, however, were alarming. It would be true to say that most of the specific and principle recommendations including on gender inequality, rights of children particularly the age of criminal responsibility and minimum age for marriage, cruel punishments and death penalty, non-recognised religious minorities such as Baha’is, etc have been rejected entirely by the IRI. In terms of quality and seriousness, the 35 percent rejected recommendations undoubtedly overweigh the above mentioned 65 percent. These are some examples of the recommendations rejected by the IRI:
It seems that the IRI has used a simple formula while going through the list of the recommendations. They have accepted most of the recommendations that recognised their current efforts and did not ask for real changes. These recommendations could be easily identified by favourable words such as: “continue”, “pursue”, “step up”, and “intensify” your efforts.
On the other hand, they have rejected most of the recommendations that used words such as “end”, “stop”, “abolish, and “amend”, or implied slightest allegation of violation of human rights, for example, gender discrimination, harassment of journalists or detention of political prisoners. They have also rejected all the calls for amending their laws to ensure compliance with internationally accepted human rights standards. In other words, Iranian authorities have not tolerated any critical recommendation. This is contrary to the purpose and function of the UPR and members states must take this more seriously. During the yesterday session only UK and USA (out of 18 member states that made statements) were prepared to intervene and challenge the IRI’s position on the UPR.
Undoubtedly, Iran will be relying on its 65 percent rate of acceptance of the UPR recommendations in order to prove their cooperation with the UN mechanisms and the international community. This will be of particular significance when the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Iran Dr Shaheed will be decided on 27th March. It is very important for the member states not to read to much into the 65 percent figure. They need to have a clear idea of what this figure is consisting of, and, how many balanced, reasonable, genuine recommendations have been rejected by the IRI.
Today, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) Dr. Ahmed Shaheed formally presented his latest report to the 28th Session of the UN Human Rights Council.
Dr. Shaheed expressed deep concerns over the alarmingly high rate of executions, gender inequality and governmental plans affecting women’s rights, independence of the legal practice, situation of ethnic and religious minorities, and suppression of activists, journalists, and internet users.
Dr. Shaheed indicated that at least 753 people were believed to have been executed in Iran last year, the highest number since 2002, around half of them for drug-related crimes. He also indicated that 13 juveniles had been executed in 2014 alone.
He urged Iranian authorities to rescind capital punishment for drug offences and juveniles in line with international law, and to uphold fair trial standards. He also pointed out that he had been barred from visiting Iran during the past four years. He reiterated his request for a visit to Iran. Dr. Shaheed’s full report can be read here.
Dr. Shaheed’s presentation was welcomed quite a few number of member states in the inter-active dialogue that followed, including by the European Union (EU), France, Italy, the United States, and United Kingdom, among others.
Member states shared concerns regarding the status of political activists and prisoners of conscience (Australia), human rights defenders and drug related executions (Norway), unclear fate of child offender Saman Nasim (Ntherlands) and women’s right and reproductive plans (UK).
Furthermore, several member states including France, Denmark, and Germany joined Dr. Shaheed in expressing concern regarding the conditions faced by religious minorities including Baha’is.
The IRI and a number of states including Cuba, Syria, and Venezuela criticized the UN special procedures in general and the mandate of the Special rapporteur on Iran in particular. Syria called for the Council not to renew the mandate and Belarus urged the council to turn their back to this process.
The IRI expressed the belief that the UN Special Rapporteur’s mandate was motivated by the political goals and that the Special Rapporteur should have looked at the half full of the glass.
NGO representatives of the Baha’i community, Sudwind, and International Educational Development described Iran’s human rights record as alarming and backed Dr. Shaheed’s report.
Meanwhile, members of two Iranian organizations accompanying the Iranian delegation criticised the UN Special Rapporteur’s report and suggested, for example, that drug offences should be recognized as serious crimes under international law. This in itself implied an agreement that under current international standards, drug offences do not meet the standard of the most serious crimes and the IRI violates international law by imposing the death penalty for this category of crimes.
Finally, Dr. Shaheed responded to the questions raised concerning his report, and reiterated his concern about high rate of executions particularly for drug related offences which has proved ineffective, including in reducing the number of drug addicts in Iran.
The report comes at a time when the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Iran will be decided only three days later on Thursday, 19th March.
On 27th March member states will vote on a resolution calling for the renewal of Dr. Shaheed’s mandate for a fifth consecutive year. 36 NGOs have called on the member states of the UN Human Rights Council to support the resolution to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. Read the joint letter here.