Iran: Little Progress to Show UN on Disability Rights
Iran is facing a looming deadline to present its response to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) a year after the UN body gave the Iranian government three recommendations for upholding and protecting the rights of the country’s disabilities community.
A source with knowledge of Iran’s efforts to respond to the UN told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) that the Iranian government has made no progress on the issues and must respond by mid-May 2018.
“Iran has basically done nothing about changing the degrading language in its laws,” said the source who requested anonymity for personal security reasons. “The inappropriate language exists in Iranian laws, including in the Islamic Penal Code and registration and criminal procedural regulations and getting rid of it will take time.”
“The judiciary has to propose changes and then they have to be approved by Parliament,” added the source, a disability rights activist. “Unfortunately, no steps have been taken in this regard.”
The committee had asked Iran to act on three issues: Violence prevention, eliminating derogatory language in Iranian laws and enforcing Article 66 of Iran’s Criminal Procedures Regulations.
Specifically, the committee had asked Iran to remove words like “majnoon” (crazy) and “majoor” (unbalanced) from its laws and “Bring its legislation, particularly the Comprehensive Legislation on the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2004) into line with the convention, based on the human rights model of disability and repeal derogatory terminology against persons with disabilities, including in the New Criminal Code.”
The committee had also asked Iran to “enforce article 66 of the Criminal Procedure Regulations and ensure prosecutions and convictions in cases of violence against persons with disabilities” and “provide early recovery, legal remedies, counseling and accessible services for victims.”
According to Article 66, “Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are working to protect children and young adults, women, the sick and individuals with physical and mental disabilities, the environment, cultural heritage, public health and citizens rights, can file suits against crimes committed in the mentioned areas and be present in all stages of the judicial process.”
The disability rights activist told CHRI: “Enforcing … Article 66 of the Criminal Procedures Regulations requires legal codes in order to specify which NGOs are qualified to initiate judicial procedures. So far, no letter or regulations have been sent to NGOs in this regard.”
The CRPD had also asked Iran to work on preventing violence against persons with disabilities by adopting “a strategy to prevent and combat all forms of exploitation, violence, and abuse against persons with disabilities, including through early identification of instances of exploitation, and specific risks of gender-based violence against women and children with disabilities.”
However, Iran’s Law for the Protection of the Rights of Persons With Disabilities, recently passed by Iran’s Parliament, as well as the Bill for the Protection of Children, which is currently being debated on the floor, do not address the issue of violence against individuals with disabilities.
CRPD Notes 58 Areas of Concern, Offers Recommendations
Iran submitted its first report to the CRPD on July 15, 2015. On April 12, 2017, the CRPD issued a 69-point reply covering positive developments, areas of concern as well as recommendations based on Iran’s commitments to the convention.
The CRPD noted only two positive developments in Iran’s report while pointing out 58 areas of concern, which were published and made public on May 10, 2017. A year later, Iran has not taken clear steps to address the committee’s requests in the three areas specified by the committee.
According to the Law Ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities, adopted by Iran’s parliament in 2008, the State Welfare Organization and the Veterans Foundation are in charge of the convention’s secretariat in Iran. In the past year, the secretariat has held several meetings at the State Welfare Organization to discuss the CRPD’s concerns.
The secretariat collaborated with Iranian NGOs such as the Tehran-based Bavar (Believe), which focuses on women and children living with disabilities, and the Judiciary as well as the State Welfare Organization and the Veterans Foundation to prepare a reply to the UN’s independent experts.
According to a report by Bavar, the secretariat’s last meeting took place on April 9, 2018. Its findings will be compiled by the Judiciary and the State Welfare Organization and after the secretariat’s approval, will be submitted to the committee in Geneva.
In addition to the issues mentioned above, the CRPD has called on Iran to include people with disabilities in its census. No information was reported about this community in Iran’s 2017 census.
The committee had expressed concern about Iran’s lack of systematic methods to collect information about people with disabilities, including problems they face in regards to their age, gender, sexual identity, ethnicity, language and immigration and asylum status.
“Iran’s reply will probably be focused on the ratification of the Law for the Protection of the Rights of Persons With Disabilities because other than that, there have been no other particular steps taken in this area,” a Tehran-based advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities told CHRI.
“The new law also does not include any mention or prevention of discrimination against individuals with disabilities and there are no accurate figures on sterilization or the imprisonment of individuals with disabilities.”
The two positive steps noted by the UN committee include the Iranian president’s signing of the Charter for Citizen’s Rights, which states, “Disabled persons must be given the opportunity and possibility to study and acquire skills appropriate to their capabilities” (Article 111), and the government’s efforts to create a policy-making framework for the implementation of the convention.
Human rights organizations and activists have pointed out that President Hassan Rouhani’s Citizen’s Rights Charter has no path to implementation and therefore has no ability to impact the rights situation in Iran. On the contrary, it has done harm by distracting attention from the causes of rights abuses and the reforms needed.
The UN committee also expressed concern about insufficient teaching of sign language and Braille in Iran, instances of torture, protecting the privacy of individuals and their families, health services, access to justice, freedom and security, and issues regarding women with disabilities.
The CRPD is comprised of 12 independent experts charged with supervising the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Iran ratified the convention in 2009, but its domestic laws and practices are still not compliant with the convention’s recommended standards.
The committee meets two or three times a year in Geneva where member states are required to present reports about their efforts to implement the convention. Then the committee studies the member states’ reports and offers its concerns and recommendations to each country.