First report from the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran draws heated response
Thursday, 15 March 2012 16:27


The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Mr Ahmed Shaheed, appeared before the Human Rights Council (the Council) for the first time on 12 March 2012 to present his report. The main issues raised were imprisonment and torture of journalists and human rights defenders, the excessive use of the death penalty, and the repression of religious/ethnic/linguistic minorities and women. In his presentation, the Special Rapporteur expressed regret at the failure of Iran to allow him to visit the country, despite numerous requests, and stated that this only heightened concern at the human rights situation in the country. He called on the country to cooperate and view the mandate not as a penalty but as an opportunity to address human rights challenges.


As is usually the case with country specific mandates, States on the speakers list were divided between those who support the mandate and those who see it as an instrument of bias, and therefore do not offer constructive engagement on the issues discussed.


Among States in support of the mandate, the issue of imprisonment and torture of journalists and human rights defenders was of high priority, with Austria stating that Iran has detained more journalists than any other country in the world. The USA, Slovakia, Germany, and Canada also highlighted this issue, and reiterated the Special Rapporteur’s call for the release and reassessment of several specific cases. The case of human rights lawyer Abdulfattah Sultani, who has been sentenced to 18 years imprisonment for ‘colluding against the regime’ and banned from practicing law, was mentioned several times. States and the Special Rapporteur called for his release, as well as that of political opposition leaders who are currently under house arrest.



Another important issue was the persecution and repression of religious, ethnic and linguistic minorities, in particular the Baha’i community, many of whom have been imprisoned for their beliefs. Switzerland and the Czech Republic, among others, made specific reference to this, and an NGO statement was made by the Baha’i International Community asking how the international community could respond when the Iranian Government continues to ‘deny the community’s right to exist’.


Increasing use of capital punishment in Iran, including for juveniles, was raised by the Special Rapporteur and subsequently described as ‘deplorable’ and ‘alarming’ by Austria and Switzerland. The Special Rapporteur and many States including Spain, Brazil, and France urged a moratorium on the death penalty in the country, which France said is now used at the highest rate per person in the world.


States who voiced their disagreement with the Special Rapporteur’s mandate, and with country specific mandates in general, did not offer any comments on the issues raised in the report. This was with the exception of Ecuador, who asked Iran to consider a moratorium on the death penalty, but extended this request to all States that still use capital punishment.


Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Venezuela, and Belarus stated their preference for the UPR as a mechanism of addressing human rights issues within countries due to its ‘non-politicised’ nature. Belarus and Venezuela in fact described the success of Iran’s UPR as it accepted 123 recommendations. In general, the States in opposition to the mandate1 considered such mandates to be politically motivated (with Syria describing it as ‘the height of political blackmail’), selective, and overly focused on developing countries.


Iran’s response to the report was heated, to the point where the US made a point of order requesting it to use language appropriate to the forum. The State angrily rejected the report, blaming the US, France, UK, and other ‘morally failed states’ for the killings of Iranian scientists, and stating that the report ‘in no way meets the minimum standards of equality’ of the Council. Iran described the report as ‘biased’, ‘ignorant’ and ‘unprofessional’, stating that repetition of lies (referring to the allegations collected from various sources in the compilation of the report) doesn’t make them true. It briefly gave an explanation of the case of the pastor allegedly sentenced to death for apostasy, stating this was not the basis of his sentence. It said that no person has ever been sentenced or pursued for changing their religion, and made the point that it is easier to build a church in Iran than it is to build a mosque in Geneva, Paris, or London. It concluded by saying such reports change the council into a ‘theatre of war’ between the US and European states, and Islamic states and culture.


A resolution extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Iran is currently being negotiated at the Council, and is expected to be passed by a vote towards the end of the session.

1 Iran, Pakistan, Ecuador, Sri Lanka, Cuba, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Syria, Belarus


Last Updated on Thursday, 15 March 2012 16:31
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