Introduction – Distortion & Disinformation
Iran as a founding member of the United Nations, and party to the major international human rights instruments, while upholding the promotion of principles enshrined in its constitution, and while ensuring its full compliance with the relevant international commitments, has taken a genuine and long-term approach to safeguard human rights.
– Mohammad-Javad Larijani during Iran’s Universal Periodic Review, 15 February 2010
Two years after the disputed presidential election of 2009, the human rights situation in Iran continues to deteriorate. The country has become enveloped in a profound human rights crisis marked by systematic violations of both international law and the rights protected by Iran’s own constitution. The government has been engaged in a binge of executions, routine torture, and mass arbitrary detentions. Journalists, human rights defenders, civil society activists, as well as, minority ethnic and religious groups face growing repression. Authorities, moreover, repeatedly silence domestic efforts to hold the government accountable.
Amidst this deepening crisis, Iranian officials are doing all they can to prevent outside scrutiny of human rights conditions in the country, while proclaiming to respect their international obligations. Mohammad-Javad Larijani, head of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights, along with other officials representing Iran abroad, consistently obfuscate any serious international discussion of the country’s deteriorating human rights record by engaging in distortion or misrepresentation of facts and by diverting criticism with discussion of issues extraneous to their record.
In this guide, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran examines statements made publicly by Larijani and other officials regarding the Iranian government’s human rights record, and compares those statements to the actual record as documented by international human rights organizations and United Nations human rights bodies.
Despite the Iranian government’s attempts to publicly sanitize its human rights record, realities on the ground paint an increasingly grim picture.
Throughout 2009 and 2010, authorities tried hundreds of activists, opposition figures, journalists and human rights defenders, many in “show trials,” and gave them lengthy sentences on vaguely worded offences including “acts against national security,” “insulting Islam,” and “enmity against God.” The Iranian judiciary has generally become a tool of the state security establishment and an estimated 500 persons remain arbitrarily detained for peaceful activities or the exercise of free expression. Nearly all of these detainees have little to no access to their lawyers or case files and trials often fall below international due process standards.
Authorities have sentenced several human rights advocates to lengthy prison terms, such as Emad Baghi of the Association for Prisoner’s Rights who is serving six years in prison and Shiva Nazar Ahari of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, sentenced to four years and 74 lashes.
Authorities have even prosecuted a number of lawyers who represent political detainees including Nasrin Sotoudeh and Mohammad Seifzadeh, sentenced in 2010 to eleven years and nine years respectively. These convictions are part of an ongoing purge of the legal defense community by the Judiciary, which is effectively criminalizing human rights-based representation.
Judges routinely ignore allegations of coercion and torture used to solicit confessions from political and criminal detainees alike. Numerous detainees have come forward with personal accounts of rape, severe beatings, sleep deprivation, verbal threats and other ill treatment by interrogators. Cruel and inhumane punishments including stoning, limb amputations and floggings are also on the rise.
Since the start of 2011 Iran has been on an execution binge. In January 2011 alone, Iran executed 85 persons, compared to 86 in all of 2005, the year Mahmoud Ahmadinejad assumed the presidency. Included in this count are three post-election protestors: Zahra Bahrami (a Dutch-Iranian dual national), Jafar Kazemi, and Mohammad Haj Aghaee. In all of 2010, Iran executed at least 542 people, 242 officially announced and over 300 reportedly put to death in secret executions inside Vakilabad Prison in Mashad. Iran continues to execute more people per capita than any other country.
The government imposes increasingly severe restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly, including widespread censorship of newspapers and the Internet, and closure of human rights organizations and trade unions. Authorities have imprisoned several Iranian journalists including Bahman Ahmadi Amouee and Issa Saharkhiz. Iranian cities are under a virtual security lockdown that makes the exercise of basic internationally-protected freedoms impossible.
Religious and ethnic minorities continue to face discrimination. Authorities repeatedly detained and prosecuted members of the Shi’a Muslim Sufi order Nematollahi Gonabadi and several of the order’s prayer centers have been demolished. In December 2010, Iranian courts sentenced Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani to death for “apostasy,” an offense that has no basis in Iranian law. Authorities continued broad scale discrimination against members of the Baha’i Faith including sentencing seven Baha’i leaders to ten years in prison each on baseless espionage charges in August 2010 and denying Baha’is access to higher education.
As Iran’s human rights crisis unfolds, international NGOs within UN human rights institutions and from member states have expressed repeated concern. According to the Democracy Coalition Project, between 2009 and 2010, Iran received 212 recommendations, more than almost any other country during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
Iranian officials, nonetheless, continue to fail to cooperate with UN human rights bodies and mechanisms. Moreover, no special procedure has been permitted to visit since 2005 and Iran is effectively blocking seven Special Rapporteurs who have outstanding requests to visit.
Despite evidence of wide scale rights violations by the government, Iranian officials continue to misrepresent their human rights record and block any attempt by traditional human rights mechanisms to address the crisis in Iran. As such, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran urges the Human Rights Council (HRC) to adopt a special mechanism on Iran in order to provide transparency and accountability for Iran’s human rights record.