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VIDEO: Dr. Shaheed's speech at the UN Human Rights Council

VIDEO: Dr. Shaheed's speech at the UN Human Rights Council

The interactive dialogue on Iran at the 22nd session of the Human Rights Council. In part one the Special Rapporteur presents his report followed by the Iranian Government's official response from Mohammad Javad Larijani head of the Islamic Republic’s human rights council. Part two includes questions and comments from UN member states, NGO, and the Special Rapporteur reply.

PART ONE (11 March 2013):


PART TWO (12 March 2013):



Mr. President, Distinguished Ladies and Gentleman,

Today I wish to report that I have met with Iranian officials last week in furtherance of what I believe is an evolving engagement with the Government.  I believe discussions in this meeting will possibly advance steps for future engagement, which would allow for the Government to address issues raised by me in the coming months if my mandate is renewed.  I consider this new approach to be positive, and believe that this development is the result of the constructive work and efforts of the members of the UN Human Rights Council. 

Mr. President,

I continue to believe that the outcome of Iran’s universal periodic review provides a sound platform for both engagement and assessment of the Government’s progress in promoting respect for human rights in the country. A majority of the 123 recommendations accepted by the Government relate to concerns about civil and political rights; social, economic and cultural rights; and concerns about discrimination.  My methodology, therefore, endeavors to assess progress made in these areas, and is aimed at identifying obstacles to the Government’s capacity to meet its international human rights obligations. 

In pursuit of this objective, I have interviewed 268 individuals since March 2012, 169 of which were interviewed for my current report.  I have also followed a wide range of developments reported in both the Iranian and international press; reviewed dozens of statements and reports issued by the Iranian Government, including its third periodic report to the Committee on Economic and Social Rights; and examined dozens of reports produced by a number of nongovernmental organizations, 17 of which are cited in the footnotes throughout my current report. 

The Islamic Republic of Iran has made some noteworthy advances in the area of women’s rights. This includes advancements in health, literacy and in enrollment rates on both the primary and secondary levels. The Iranian parliament has also recently extended maternity leave from six to nine months, and the New Islamic Penal Code -- which has not yet been adopted by the Iranian government -- would establish a fund to equalize “diya,” or blood money payments from for both genders in case of accidental injury or death.  However, reports about recent policies that prohibit women’s access to a number of fields of study, further restrict women’s freedom of movement, and current polices that continue to impede women’s ability to hold certain decision-making positions in Government remain problematic. 

In light of the aforementioned interviews and submissions, it also appears that the prevailing situation of human rights in Iran continues to warrant serious concern, and will require a wide range of solutions that are both respectful of cultural perspectives and mindful of the universality of fundamental human rights promulgated by the treaties to which Iran is a party.  I further regret to inform the Council that two reprisal cases were reported in the media in November and December 2012.  In one case, reports have maintained that five Kurdish prisoners located in Orumiyeh Prison have been charged with “contacting the office of the Special Rapporteur”, among other charges. These prisoners were reportedly interrogated and severely tortured for the purpose of soliciting confessions about their alleged contact with me.  In its observations of my report, the Iranian government has maintained that judicial prosecution of these individuals is not considered to be an act of reprisal.  However, I continue to maintain that the targeting of individuals, whether through adjudication in a court of law, or by an individual in his/her private capacity for interaction with the UN Special procedures constitutes an act of reprisal and seriously undermines the work of the UN human rights instruments. 

Unfortunately, a preponderance of reports communicated to me this past year indicate that the situation for individuals in Iran who advocate for the advancement of human rights, or those that document, report, or protest against human rights violations is grave and continues to deteriorate.    Interviews continue to impart that a majority of human rights defenders, including those that defend the rights of women, religious and ethnic minorities, as well as those that work to advance protections for the environment, workers and children continue to be subjected to harassment, arrest, interrogation, and torture and are frequently charged with vaguely-defined national security crimes, which is seemingly meant to erode the frontline of human rights defense in the country.

My current report also presents what appears to be unimpeachable forensic evidence that torture is occurring in Iran on a geographically widespread and systemic (across a number of government branches) basis, and that methods applied to victims are done so systematically, as similar methods re-appear in multiple testimonies submitted by individuals in cities across the country, and by individuals that have recently relocated from Iran to various countries around the globe.   In its observations to my current and past reports, the Iranian government has asserted that both Iranian and Islamic law prohibit torture, and therefore allegations of torture in Iran are invalid. However, I continue to insist that the existence of these legal safeguards does not in itself invalidate allegations of torture, and does not remove the obligation to thoroughly investigate such allegations.  I also remain alarmed at the high rate of executions that take place in Iran, a majority of  which continue to take place for drug-related offenses, which do not meet international standards for "most serious crimes".

Mr. President,

I joined the independent expert on freedom of opinion and expression, human rights defenders, and the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on arbitrary detention on last month in calling on Iran to immediately halt the recent spate of arrests of journalists and to release those already detained, the majority of whom work for independent news outlets. We underscored our fear that the arrests carried-out were part of a broader campaign to crack-down on independent journalists and media outlets, under the accusation that they have collaborated with ‘anti-revolutionary’ foreign media outlets and human rights organizations.  Prior to the aforementioned arrests, 45 journalists were detained in Iran. 

It is also estimated that some 40 lawyers have been prosecuted since 2009, and that at least 10 are currently detained, including Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh, Mr. Abdolfatah Soltani, and Mr Mohammad Ali Dadkhah for such crimes as “membership in an association seeking the overthrow of the Government” and “spreading propaganda against the system through interviews with foreign media”.

Furthermore, five Ahwazi Arab men were convicted of among other charges “spreading propaganda against the system” and sentenced to death in connection with their founding of an Arab minority linguistic and cultural organization named “Al-Hiwar.” Reports from multiple sources indicate that all five men were mistreated or tortured while in detention, and that they were not afforded fair trials. I urge the Iranian government to officially halt the execution of these cultural activists, two of whom are teachers, and to take every effort to investigate the aforementioned allegations.

It has also been reported that 110 Baha’is are currently detained in Iran for exercising their faith; that at least 13 Protestant Christians are currently in detention centres across Iran; and that Dervishes, members of the Yarasen faith, and Sunni Muslims continue to be the subject of punitive activities, raising serious concern about the situation of religious minorities in the country. 

Last month, I also joined the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on arbitrary detention and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of assembly and association in a statement urging the Iranian government to immediately and unconditionally release former 2009 Presidential candidates Mr. Mehdi Karoubi and Mr. Mir Hossein Mousavi, and hundreds of other prisoners of conscience who remain in prison for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression, or freedom of association and assembly during protests following the 2009 Presidential election. I further maintain that freedom of expression, assembly and association are essential conditions for the effective exercise of the right to vote and must be fully protected.  Reports of statements by Iranian officials issuing warnings against those citizens who call for a ‘free election’ and suggesting these calls are conspiratorial and inimical to the Iranian State undermine the full enjoyment of article 25 which requires “the free communication of information and ideas about public and political issues between citizens, candidates and elected representatives”.

Lastly Mr President,

I wish to express my serious concern about the potentially negative humanitarian effects of general economic sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic, which are engendered by a number of reports.  However, I wish to mention that a number of conflicting statements issued by various officials in the country about the effects of general sanctions have made it difficult to discern the reality of the situation in this regard, and I look forward to constructive and meaningful communications with the Iranian government in order to further investigate this matter and to further engage in dialogue that advances the Government’s efforts to promote respect for human rights in the country.

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