UN Rapporteur Slams Iran for Lack of Judiciary Independence and Execution Surge
Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, released his third report to the UN Human Rights Council today, emphasizing alarm over the surge in the number of executions, as well as lack of independence of the Iranian Judiciary.
For his research the Special Rapporteur interviewed more than 130 individuals in Iran and outside Iran who provided testimonies about human rights abuses, and received written reports from human rights organizations about the situation of the Baha’i, Gonabadi Dervish, Sunnis, Christian, religious minority communities, and the Ahwazi Arab, Kurdish, Baluch, and Azerbaijani ethnic minority groups.
The report indicates that though under president Hassan Rouhani, the Islamic Republic of Iran has made some positive overtures over the past few months, “concerns raised by the General Assembly, Human Rights Council, UN Treaty Bodies, the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, human rights defenders and international organizations” have not been fully addressed. The “basis of these concerns,” as the Special Rapporteur points out, “is primarily the non-compliance of national laws with the Government’s international obligations, a lack of adherence to rule of law, as well as failure to investigate complaints and to bring human rights violators to justice.”
Amhed Shaheed’s latest report is comprised of several sections addressing Iranian laws affecting human rights, including the proposed Citizenship Rights Charter and the new Criminal Procedure Law, as well as the Political Crime Bill, and the treatment of Iranian citizens vis-à-vis their “right to liberty and security of persons.” The report also covers the situation of human rights defenders, journalists and netizens, and religious and ethnic minorities; “treatment of persons deprived of liberty; “right to a fair trial,” reflecting on independence of judges and lawyers and trial proceedings; “right to life;” and “socio-economic rights” including the right to education and the economic sanctions imposed on Iran.
“It has been estimated that some 1,539 individuals have been executed, including at least between 955 and 962 for drug trafficking, since the establishment of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur in 2011. Some 687 individuals are thought to have been executed in 2013 (369 of which were announced by official or semi-official government sources), an increase of 165 over the figures recorded for 2012…. In 2013, at least 57 individuals were hanged publicly (one of whom was pardoned after surviving the execution), including at least 28 women,” reports Ahmed Shaheed.
Perhaps next to the staggering number of executions and the treatment of ethnic and religious minorities in Iran, one of the most important aspects of the report are sections under “independence of judges” and “independence of lawyers.” Ahmed Shaheed’s research indicates judges of the Revolutionary Courts are heavily influenced by security and intelligence organizations. He also reported on threats, intimidation, detention, and prosecution of Iranian lawyers who tried to inform the court of their clients’ confessions against themselves under duress while in custody.
The report includes the testimony of prosecuted human rights lawyer, Mohammad Olyaei Fard who was imprisoned for defending his clients. According to the UN report, “in one of his [Olyaei Fard’s] cases a judge ordered a prosecutor to file charges against him for publicizing false information about the Intelligence Ministry and requested that the Bar Association revoke his license in response to his assertion that his client’s confession was extracted under duress and therefore invalid. Mr. Olyaei Fard further reported that he also had to represent his colleague, currently imprisoned lawyer Abdol Fatta Soltani, when Mr. Soltani was prosecuted for submitting allegations of torture on his client’s behalf.”
The report concludes by noting a majority of human rights violations in Iran take place during the pre-trial detention and provides the following recommendations to the Iranian government:
a. “Facilitate the unconditional release of individuals imprisoned for peacefully exercising their rights to expression, association, assembly, belief, and religion;
b. “Strengthen fair trial safeguards by ensuring access to legal counsel during all phases of pre-trial detention and the “investigative phase” of cases, including during interrogations, arraignment, and allow for legal counsel to advice the accused during these proceedings;
c. “Improve access of legal counsel to all files containing evidence against the accused;
d. “Investigate all allegations of mistreatment and/or psychological and physical torture, and prosecute responsible parties;
e. “Prevent the intimidation of lawyers, including through threats of detention and prosecution for discharging their ethical and professional responsibilities, including when submitting client grievances, and by addressing international and national media on their client’s behalf without fear of prosecution under the country’s national security and defamation laws;
f. “Prohibit capital punishment for juveniles and for crimes that do not meet the most serious crimes standards under international law, including for drug offenses and perceived sexual offences.
On Monday, March 17, Shaheed will formally present his latest report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The interactive dialogue will include Iran’s official reply and discussion of Shaheed’s findings by the Council member states.
Member states will vote on a resolution calling for the renewal of Shaheed’s mandate for a fourth consecutive year towards the end of the current session on March 21.
Background: The Human Rights Council appointed Dr. Ahmed Shaheed to the office of Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran in June 2011 [22 in favor of a special rapporteur, 7 opposed, and 14 abstentions]. He began his mandate on 1 August, 2011. Dr. Shaheed is the fourth UN human rights Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran. Previous Rapporteurs include Andres Aguilar (1984-1986), Reynaldo Galindo Pohl (1984-1986), and Maurice Copithorne (1995-2002).
Shaheed’s mandate has been renewed each year since his appointment. Dr. Shaheed has produced three reports presented to the UN General Assembly (September/October 2011, 2012, 2013) and three to UN Human Rights Council (March 2012, March 2013, and March 2014), totaling six reports.