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
In April 2015, Insight Iran, as a part of a coalition of 11 human rights NGOs, made a joint submission to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and made substantial recommendations. One of the most comprehensive of its kind, our joint submission covered various areas of concern with regard to the IRI’s commitments pursuant to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Read the executive summary of the Insight Iran’s submission here.
In June 2015, during the Pre-Session of the Committee on Iran, our coalition was given the opportunity to discuss their concerns directly with the Committee experts and shed light on complex issues that required further explanation. Later on, on 22 June 2015, the Committee published the List of Issues in relation to the fourth periodic report of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Insight Iran welcomes the Committee’s detailed and methodical approach and their willingness to address key issues and challenges despite all the restraints on the time and resources of the Committee. We are also delighted to see that our submission have contributed to the work of the Committee.
In a joint public statement published today, our coalition reflected on the List of Issues and formal request of the Committee to Iran to respond to over 30 concerns ahead of the main session of the Committee in Geneva in January 2016, where, Iran’s children’s rights record will be scrutinised.
JOINT PUBLIC STATEMENT
20 July 2015
Iran: 20 years of unfulfilled promises: It is time to put children first
Two decades on from Iran’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Iranian authorities continue to show a shocking lack of respect for the basic human rights of children, 10 human rights groups said today on the 21st anniversary of the ratification of the treaty. The joint statement follows the publication of a formal request by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (Committee) for Iran to respond to over 30 concerns ahead of a meeting in Geneva in January 2016 that will scrutinize Iran’s children’s rights record.
The Committee’s list of concerns reflects a disturbing trail of broken promises since Iran’s ratification of the CRC in July 1994, a state of affairs that has been the subject of comment and condemnation by human rights groups over the past 20 years.
Girls as young as nine and boys as young as 15 continue to be treated and sentenced in the same way as adults for most offences. Death sentences are still imposed and carried out for crimes allegedly committed by persons below 18 years of age. The legal age of marriage remains 13 for girls and 15 for boys with official statistics confirming thousands of marriages of children below 15 years. Children belonging to ethnic minorities are denied the opportunity to learn and use their mother language and to engage in their cultural practices, essential for the development of their cultural identity. Similarly, children belonging to religious minorities experience pervasive abuse and discrimination because of their or their parents’ religious beliefs. Discrimination and violence, including domestic violence and police brutality, also remains a reality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children.
Successive Iranian governments and parliaments have failed to undertake the root-and-branch reforms that are sorely needed to address these concerns. At best, they have refused to acknowledge the scale of such concerns and announced token initiatives, which have rarely been translated into a cohesive and sustained strategy. At worst, they have relied on a general and vaguely worded reservation about compliance with Islamic law to negate the whole object and purpose of the CRC with respect to key issues such as juvenile executions, child marriage and discrimination.
After two decades, such token gestures and unfulfilled promises are simply unacceptable. There must be no “ifs”, no “buts” about ending violence and discrimination against children.
The fourth periodic review of Iran by the Committee is an opportune moment for the Iranian authorities to break with their persistent policy of denial and empty rhetoric and begin delivering long-delayed reforms to ensure the human rights of children, without discrimination, in all matters including at school, in the family, in courts, before administrative bodies and in society in general.
KEY CONCERNS OF THE UN COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD
Age of majority and adult criminal responsibility
As a state party to the CRC, Iran has pledged to ensure that all legislation defines a child as a person under the age of 18 years and the age of criminal responsibility, conforms to the CRC both in law and practice. However, the age of adult criminal responsibility remains nine lunar years for girls and 15 lunar years for boys. Above this age, in cases of hodud (offences against God carrying inalterable punishments prescribed by Shari’a law) and qesas (retribution-in-kind connected with a criminal act), a child is generally convicted and sentenced in the same way as adults, unless a judge determines that he or she did not comprehend the nature of the crime or its consequences or his or her mental growth and maturity are in doubt. The Committee has asked Iran to indicate any measures taken to ensure the age of criminal responsibility conforms to the CRC, both in law and practice.
Iran continues to impose and carry out death sentences for crimes allegedly committed by persons below 18 years of age, despite an absolute prohibition on such executions under international law, including the CRC. At least 72 juvenile offenders are believed to have been executed between 2005 and 2014 and at least 160 juvenile offenders are believed to remain on death row.
The Committee has asked Iran to provide information on the outcome and progress of the judicial review of cases of persons on death row for crimes committed when they were below the age of 18 years based on a 2014 “pilot judgment” by Iran’s Supreme Court. It has also asked for detailed information on the number of persons awaiting execution for crimes allegedly committed when they were below the age of 18 years and on the fate of Saman Naseem and Barzan Nasrollahzadeh, two juvenile offenders who were reported to be awaiting execution earlier this year.
Minimum age of marriage
The legal age of marriage continues to be 13 for girls and 15 for boys. However, girls below 13 and boys below 15 can be married with the consent of their guardian and the approval of a court. The Committee has asked the Iranian government to “provide information on the measures taken to eliminate the harmful practice of child marriage, including forced marriage” and “comment on the information received according to which thousands of marriages of children below 13 years take place every year and that many girls commit suicide to escape such marriages.”
In light of Iran’s obligation to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation, the Committee has further asked if “Iran intends to repeal article 1108 of its Civil Code, which obliges wives, including married girls, to sexual submission and obedience towards their husbands.” Denial of access to free and compulsory education to girls if pregnant or if their husbands so wish are among the concerns the Committee has raised in relation to the harmful practice of child marriage.
Children belonging to religious minorities
Lack of respect for freedom of religion and belief is another concern identified in the Committee’s list of issues. Iran has been asked to identify efforts undertaken to protect children
belonging to religious minorities, in particular Baha’i, Sufi and Yarsan children, as well as children from atheist and agnostic families. The Committee has noted with concern the arrest and detention of Baha’i teachers and an announcement by the Advocacy Council for the Right to Education in 2012 that many Iranian students had been banned from education for their religious beliefs. It has asked Iran to inform the Committee about the measures taken to ensure that all children, in particular children belonging to religious minorities, benefit from free and compulsory education, without any restrictions.
Children belonging to ethnic minorities
Widespread discrimination against children from ethnic minorities such as the Ahwazi Arab, Azerbaijani Turk, Baloch and Kurdish minorities continue in everyday life, including in access to education, and is another concern featured in the Committee’s list of issues. Iran has been asked to provide information on the measures taken to provide ethnic minorities with an opportunity to study in their native languages. It has also been asked to indicate the measures taken to address reported targeted arrests, detentions, imprisonments, killings, torture and executions against such groups by the law-enforcing and judicial authorities.
Torture and other ill-treatment
The Committee’s list of issues raises concerns that children can be subjected to flogging, stoning and amputation for a range of offences including, for girls, not wearing a hijab.
The Committee has asked Iran to provide detailed information on all cases of children subjected to these cruel and inhumane practices, which violate the absolute prohibition on torture under international law.
Abuse and violence
Abuses faced by children in Iran range from domestic violence, including sexual abuse and honour killings, at home to violent forms of discipline at school; from female genital mutilation, especially in the provinces of Kurdistan, Western Azerbaijan, Kermanshahh, Illam, Lorestan and Hormozghan, to police brutality against refugee and migrant children and children living and working on the streets. The Committee has further requested that Iran provide statistical data for the past three years on such cases of abuse and violence against children, and on prosecutions and penalties to perpetrators, and redress and compensation offered to the victims.
The Committee has highlighted in this regard the necessity of identifying how the vulnerability of children to such abuses depends on other aspects of their identity, such as gender, ethnic origin, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity, disability, socio-economic background, and immigration status, and asked Iran to indicate the measures taken to provide special protection to the children who are the most likely to be subjected to such abuse and violence, including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children.
The CRC is the most widely ratified international human rights treaty and establishes global standards to ensure the protection, survival, and development of all children, without discrimination. The Committee on the Rights of the Child reviews the record of countries that ratify the CRC every five years. As part of this process, the state party submits a state report to the Committee. The Committee also receives information from non-governmental organizations and UN sources to identify areas of progress and concern and to recommend steps that the country should take to improve the lives of children.
In March 2015, the 10 human rights groups submitted a joint report to the Committee, which is available on the website of Amnesty International at the following link: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde13/2118/2015/en/
In June 2015, the Committee held a pre-session with non-governmental organizations, including the 10 human rights groups issuing this joint statement, and subsequently adopted a list of issues for Iran, which will form the basis for the review scheduled for the 71st Session of the Committee in January 2016: http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CRC/Shared%20Documents/IRN/CRC_C_IRN_Q_3- 4_20953_E.pdf
The Iranian government has been asked to respond to the concerns raised in the list of issues, if possible before 15 October 2015.
 The CRC has determined the age of 18 as the standard age of entering into majority and full criminal responsibility, without any discrimination between boys and girls. This is a different matter from the minimum age of criminal responsibility, the age below which children shall not be arrested and charged with a crime. The minimum age of criminal responsibility varies around the world but the CRC has said in its General Comment 10, para 32: “A minimum age of criminal responsibility below the age of 12 years is considered by the Committee not to be internationally acceptable. States parties are encouraged to increase their lower minimum age of criminal responsibility to the age of 12 years as the absolute minimum age and to continue to increase it to a higher age level.”
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