UN Committee Urges Iran to Comply with their International Obligations
Following a review of the situation of children in Iran, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has published its concluding observations on the combined third and fourth periodic reports of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI). The report criticises the IRI in quite a few number of areas where national laws and practices fail to comply with international standards in relation to children’s rights. See the full report here.
Definition of the child, for instance, has been a major area of concern for the civil society and the Committee has taken a strong position on this matter. In a detailed report of February 2015, Insight Iran had submitted to the Committee that the age of puberty under Islamic Shari’a is still the definitive criterion for criminal responsibility and varies for boys and girls. It allows girls as young as 8 years and 9 months of age and boys of 14 years and 7 months to be held criminally responsible. This clearly is a very “low” and “discriminatory” standard, particularly against girls.
The Committee has raised serious concerns that despite its previous recommendations, the age of majority in Iran remains set at pre-defined ages of puberty for girls at 9 and for boys at 15 lunar years which results in depriving girls and boys above these ages from the protection under the Convention.
The Committee has also expressed grave concern about the persisting discrimination against girls in the IRI’s legislation and in practice in many aspects of life, including the discriminatory treatment of girls in family relations, criminal justice system, and compensation for physical injury, among others. Insight Iran had raised the issue of discrimination between boys and girls in various areas including compensation for bodily injuries.
Similarly, the Committee is deeply concerned about the law age of marriage in Iran (13 years for girls and 15 years for boys) and emphasised that it gravely violates rights under the Convention and places children, in particular girls at risk of forced and early marriages with irreversible consequences on their physical and mental health and development.
The Committee has urged the IRI to revise as a matter of urgency and priority its legislation to ensure that all persons below the age of 18 years, without exceptions, are considered as children and provided with all rights under the Convention. The Committee also urges the IRI to further increase the minimum age for marriage for both girls and boys to 18 years, and to take all necessary measures to eliminate child marriages in line with the IRI’s obligations under the Convention.
Insight Iran had submitted to the Committee that article 301 combined with article 612 of the Islamic Penal Code (2013), provides for lighter punishment if a murder is committed by a father or a paternal grandfather of the victim, more often in the name of so called “honour”. In such cases, judges have a full discretion and can even decide to release the perpetrator without any punishment paving a way for total impunity for killing one’s child.
The Committee has strongly urged the IRI to repeal article 301 of the Islamic Penal Code, and ensure that all perpetrators of murders committed in the name of so-called “honour” receive penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes.
Under article 91 of the Islamic Penal Code of 2013, in special conditions, children below the age of 18 years who have been sentenced to hudud and qisas punishments could be granted retrial and exemption from hudud and qisas punishments. However, Insight Iran had raised concern that such exemptions are under full discretion of judges who are allowed, but not obliged to seek forensic expert opinion.
The Committee has expressed serious concern about this issue and that several persons have been re-sentenced to death following such re-trials. The Committee deplores that the IRI continues to execute children and those who have committed a crime while under 18 years of age, despite its previous recommendations and numerous criticisms by human rights treaty bodies.
The Committee has strongly urged the IRI as a matter of utmost priority to:
Insight Iran had urged the Committee to consider the differences between ta’zir crimes on the one hand and hudud and qisas on the other hand. We had submitted that while corporal punishment and flogging of children for the ta’zir category has been abolished for children under the new IPC, the same has not taken place with regard to Hudud and Qisas.
The Committee has paid a careful attention to these differences and while welcoming the changes in the 2013 Islamic Penal Code, it “remains seriously concerned that the IPC retains the punishment of children who reached the legal age of criminal responsibility (9 lunar years for girls and 15 years for boys) for crimes under the categories of Hudud and Qisas with sentences involving torture or cruel, degrading treatment or punishment, which has been and continue to be applied to children.”
Insight Iran had submitted an alternative report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in advance of the Committee’s review of the IRI’s Periodic Report. The submission examined the IRI’s criminal justice system when dealing with crimes committed by, and against, children. The executive summary of the Insight Iran’s submission can be downloaded here.
Insight Iran had also joined other leading human rights NGOs such as Amnesty International, Justice for Iran, Iran Human Rights, and Baha’i International Community and made a joint submission to the Committee. One of the most comprehensive of its kind, the joint submission covered various areas of concern with regard to the IRI’s commitments pursuant to the CRC. We also took part in the Committee’s pre-sessional meeting in June 2015 in Geneva, where the submissions were considered and prepared for the main session of the review of the IRI January this year. All the submissions can be found here.
Insight Iran joined a group of 36 NGOs calling on the member states of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to support the resolution on the promotion and protection of human rights in Iran. This vote will take place in the Third Committee on 19 November 2015.
To: Member States of the UN General Assembly
12 November 2015
We, the undersigned human rights and civil society organizations, urge your government to vote in favor of Resolution A/C.30/70/L.45 on the promotion and protection of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This vote will take place during the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), scheduled for the Third Committee on Thursday, 19 November 2015.
The recent nuclear accord between Iran and the P5+1 provides the international community with an opportunity to focus attention on the chronically dire human rights situation in Iran. Support for the UNGA resolution will help prioritize human rights and reaffirm the international community’s core recommendations for how Iranian authorities can best meet their international rights obligations.
In September and October, the UN Secretary-General and the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, each reported on a range of practices in the country that seriously undermine the rights to life, freedom from torture, freedoms of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and religion and belief, the right to a fair trial as well as the rights to education and health. The Special Rapporteur also cited discrimination based on gender, religion, and ethnicity. Notwithstanding Iran’s 2002 standing invitation to the United Nations’ Special Procedures, and despite their numerous and repeated requests to visit the country, none of these special procedures, including the country rapporteur, have been allowed to visit for the past 10 years. Furthermore, the authorities have systematically worked to undermine the efforts of Iranian civil society to promote and protect international human rights standards.
Despite these many human rights concerns, Iranian authorities have rejected in full or in part the majority of the recommendations made during the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), and undertook notably fewer voluntary commitments than they had in the first cycle. Indeed, they rejected nearly all recommendations regarding civil and political rights in full or in part.
The continued attention of the international community is required if Iran is to end this pattern of abuse and noncooperation. UN Member States should express their concern about these violations. In doing so, States show support for civil society as well as for those in positions of authority who wish to see improvements in the human rights situation. By voting in favor of the resolution, states will encourage Iran’s government to prioritize human rights and to advance and protect the rights of Iran’s population.
The country has had a disturbing escalation in the use of the death penalty, with at least 830 people executed between 1 January and 1 November 2015. There were reports of executions of at least four juvenile offenders. Iranian authorities executed Fatemeh Salbehi on 13 October for a crime she allegedly committed at age 17. She was convicted of killing her husband, whom she had reportedly been forced to marry when she was just 16. Several UN Special Rapporteurs subsequently denounced this execution of a juvenile offender and lack of judicial leniency given that Salbehi experienced domestic abuse, including forced early marriage.
The vast majority of executions in Iran are for crimes such as drug-related offenses where international law clearly prohibits the death penalty, as the offenses are not ‘the most serious crimes’. Iranian law maintains the death penalty for financial crimes and for acts that should not be considered criminal at all including “insulting the Prophet of Islam,” and consensual sexual relations between adults, including for adultery and certain same-sex relations. Some individuals may also have been executed for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly. Others, including a spiritual teacher, Mohammad Ali Taheri, remain on death row for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of belief. Executions based on national-security-related charges that may be politically motivated appear to be carried out disproportionately against members of Iran’s ethnic minority communities, including Ahwazi Arabs, Azerbaijani Turks, Kurds, and Baluchis, who experience widespread discrimination in law and practice, including in the enjoyment of their economic, social and cultural rights.
Trials in Iran often fall far short of international law and standards. Sentences, including the death penalty, are often imposed without any regard to internationally prescribed safeguards, such as access to a lawyer of one’s choice from the time of arrest. The use of “confessions” coerced under torture or other ill-treatment is routinely reported, and courts generally rely on evidence obtained in breach of international law and standards.
UN bodies and human rights organizations have expressed grave concerns for hundreds of activists, journalists, human rights defenders, women’s rights advocates, trade unionists, lawyers, students, artists, and members of ethnic and religious minorities languishing in arbitrary detention. Iranian detainees and prisoners persistently face the risk of torture or other ill-treatment, including prolonged solitary confinement and denial of medical treatment. They are regularly denied access to legal counsel, in breach of their right to a fair trial. Many detainees are prosecuted under vaguely defined national security charges, which are routinely used to silence peaceful expression, association, assembly, and religious activity.
At the start of November, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard arrested at least five journalists, including Isa Saharkhiz, Ehsan Mazandarani, Afarin Chitsaz, and Saman Safarzaee. According to Isa Saharkhiz’ son, he is facing national-security-related charges. In an alarming set of cases, courts have imposed lengthy prison terms of 12 to 16 years on several young activists. For example, on 30 May, an artist and civil society activist, Atena Farghadani, was sentenced to over 12 years in prison for her association with families of the post-2009 presidential election protesters who died in detention, allegedly under torture, and for her artwork. The artwork included drawing and posting on Facebook a satirical cartoon that mocked Iranian lawmakers for their efforts to pass a bill that outlaws voluntary sterilization and restricts access to information about contraception.
Systematic discrimination and violence against women in law and practice also merits serious concern. For instance, married women do not have equal rights with their husbands, including with respect to divorce, child custody and inheritance, and must legally have their husbands’ permission to attend university, hold a job, or travel out of the country. In the past few years, the authorities have increased the discriminatory measures restricting women’s access to higher education, including imposing gender quotas. Women’s participation in society is also restricted through compulsory “veiling” laws that target women who fail to cover their head and conform to strict dress codes for harassment and imprisonment. Since 2012, state funding for Iran’s family planning program has been withdrawn, restricting access to affordable modern contraception for millions of women in the country. Two draft laws, the Bill to Increase Fertility Rates and Prevent Population Decline and the Comprehensive Population and Exaltation of Family Bill, would, if enacted, further erode women’s right to sexual and reproductive health, and entrench gender-based discrimination and violence, including domestic violence.
This resolution on the promotion and protection of human rights in Iran of the 70th UNGA is a vital opportunity for the international community to express human rights concerns. The resolution welcomes recent positive commitments by Iranian officials, while effectively drawing attention to the broad range of ongoing violations. Moreover, the resolution calls on authorities to cooperate with all UN Special Procedures, including the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Substantive cooperation with UN mechanisms and tangible rights improvements in line with Iran’s international legal obligations are the real measures of progress. By voting in favor of this resolution on Thursday, 19 November 2015, the UNGA will send a strong signal to the government and everyone in Iran that the world is invested in genuine human rights improvements in the country.
Roya Boroumand, Executive Director
Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation
Robin Phillips, Executive Director
The Advocates for Human Rights
Hassan Nayeb Hashem, Representative to the Human Rights Council in Geneva
All Human Rights for All in Iran
Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Middle East North Africa Programme
Kamran Ashtary, Executive Director
Thomas Hughes, Executive Director
Shahin Helali Khyavi, Director
Association for Human Rights of the Azerbaijani People in Iran
Taimoor Aliassi, UN Representative
Association pour les Droits Humains au Kurdistan d’Iran-Genève (KMMK-G)
Mansoor Bibak, Co-Director
Balochistan Human Rights Group
Dr. Shirin Ebadi, Founder and President
Center for Supporters of Human Rights
Committee of Human Rights Reporters
Joel Simon, Executive Director
Committee to Protect Journalists
Jessica Morris, Executive Director
Conectas Direitos Humanos
Hassan Shire, Executive Director
East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project
Raphaël Chenuil-Hazan, Executive Director
Ensemble Contre La Peine de Mort (ECPM)
Ibrahim Al Arabi, Executive Director
European Ahwazi Human Rights Organisation
Susan Munroe, Chief Executive
Freedom From Torture
Keyvan Rafiee, Executive Director
Human Rights Activists in Iran
Sarah Leah Whitson, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Division
Human Rights Watch
Carolina Carrera, President
Humanas: Centro Regional de Derechos Humanos y Justicia de Género
Mani Mostofi, Director
Mohammad Nayyeri, Director
Hadi Ghaemi, Executive Director
International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran
Stéphanie David, Representative to the United Nations in New York
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Phil Lynch, Director
International Service for Human Rights
Saghi Ghahraman, President
Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO)
Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, Executive Director
Iran Human Rights
Shadi Sadr, Co-Director
Justice for Iran
Rebin Rahmani, Director of European Branch
The Kurdistan Human Rights Network
Jessica Stern, Executive Director
OutRight Action International
Mehrangiz Kar, Chairperson
Siamak Pourzand Foundation
Mahmood Enayat, Director
Firuzeh Mahmoudi, Executive Director
United for Iran
Mohammad Mostafaei, Executive Director
Universal Tolerance Organization
Elizabeth A. Zitrin, President
World Coalition Against the Death Penalty
Shadi Amin, Coordinator
6 Rang: The Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network