Shaheed’s October 2013 speech at the UNGA in New York
Dr. Shaheed officially presented his report on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran to the 68th session of the UN General Assembly’s 3rd Committee on Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at 3pm. The presentation was followed by Iran’s official reply and an interactive dialogue with UN member states.
Video of Speech and Interactive Dialogue:
Text of the Speech:
Thank you Mr. President,
Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
I am honoured to present my third interim report on the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Of paramount importance to my mandate are cooperation and constructive dialogue with the Iranian authorities to address issues arising from the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran. In this regard I am happy to report the constructive spirit of my recent meetings with Iran’s Permanent Representative in both Geneva and in New York.
Iran has also submitted a detailed response to the report before you. Relevant sections of my report reflect this information; and the complete text of the Government’s commentary is currently available on my website.
Drawing attention to human rights issues and individual cases of alleged human rights violations where domestic mechanisms have, in my assessment, failed to deliver accountability, remedy and redress constitute another pillar of my work. Some 137 interviews have been conducted for the present report, which have allowed me to either corroborate or refute a number of allegations.
I reaffirm the importance of a country visit to further investigate allegations; to engage with the relevant authorities in a constructive dialogue with regard to the human rights situation; and to offer support in areas where Iran faces particular human rights challenges.
A visit will also improve my ability to probe claims made about the impact of economic sanctions on the human rights situation in the country – an issue which I continue to monitor and report on, as I have in this report, and to which I attach great importance.
In lieu of a visit to further investigate various matters of human rights concern, however, I equally reaffirm to continue to investigate allegations in accordance with the manual of procedures and the code of conduct adopted by the Human Rights Council.
I welcome a number of positive signals and statements from the new President. As Special Rapporteur, I must also focus on the underlying fundamentals that shape, impact and constrain human rights for Iranians. These are reflected in the legal system as a whole and long-term official practices, and in implementation of basic rights like the freedoms of religion and expression, the right to fair trial, the freedom from arbitrary detention. To achieve real improvement in human rights for Iranians requires not only genuine commitment and positive approaches, but also concrete and demonstrable changes in Iranian law and in its implementation. This has been borne out in the challenges faced by previous administrations and will continue to confront those that will be working to advance the new government’s initiatives.
Coming on the heels of the campaign pledges made by President Rouhani, these steps raise the expectation of tangible and sustainable reforms that address concerns raised previously by the General Assembly and by the human rights mechanisms. In this regard, I welcome the recent release and furlough of more than a dozen prisoners of conscience and I urge the Government to consider additional steps to ensure the unconditional release of hundreds of other human rights defenders that remain in detention, and to reconsider steps that constrain civil society through a number of restrictive public order and national security laws.
My work on Iran to date shows that “tensions between various aspects of Iran’s laws and its international human rights obligations, along with the capricious application of laws comprise the core of the human rights challenges facing the country”. Aspects of a number of national laws such as the Press Law, and the Computer Crimes Law manifestly violate freedom of expression and access to information contrary to obligations undertaken under ICCPR.
Key concerns such as the application of the death penalty for crimes that do not meet the “most serious crime” standard, such as drug-related offenses, and the retention of cruel and inhuman punishments such as stoning and amputation remain unaddressed. Meanwhile a recently passed bill allows a custodian to marry his adopted child if it is deemed to be in “best interest of the child”.
I also retain considerable concern about laws and regulations used to perpetuate discrimination against women at home, in education and in the workplace, and urge the Iranian government to reconsider policies in this, and in the other areas identified in my report.
My report also stresses that failure to address the deficits in the legislative and policy framework continues to negatively impact on the realization of human rights on-the-ground.
For example, some 15 journalists have been arrested since January 2013 (rendering a total of some 70 media personnel and bloggers in detention); approximately 67 internet cafes were closed in July alone, and up to 5 million websites are reportedly blocked.
Members of religious minority groups, including Baha’i, Christians, Sunni Muslims, and Yarsan also continue to face severe restrictions of their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association; while ethnic, linguistic and other minorities continue to see their rights violated in law and in practice.
I also continue to be deeply concerned about prison conditions. Testimonies continue to recount overcrowding, limited access to sanitation, and inadequate provision of food, water and medical treatment. I have been monitoring reports about recent steps by officials to address these concerns, and look forward to gathering further information about the Government’s efforts to address these deficits during engagement with Iran in the coming months.
Lastly, some 724 executions took place between January 2012 and June 2013, including a number of public executions. Nearly 150 executions have been reported in the last three months alone.
The sober reality of human rights in Iran just enunciated represents a powerful reminder that human rights reform must be a central aspect of the new government’s legislative agenda, and of any dialogue between the new government and the global community.
Iran has itself accepted the necessity of a number of key reforms during its Universal Periodic Review and during its reviews by the UN Treaty Bodies. It is now vitally important for the future welfare of the Iranian people that the new government sets-forth to advance a bold policy programme designed to realize these public commitments and legal obligations.
It is my view that the best route to addressing human rights concerns is cooperation, transparency and engagement. It is my hope that I, and indeed the other charter bodies of the UN, would have the opportunity in the months ahead, given the overtures being made by the new presidency in Tehran, to discuss these concerns in a constructive and transparent manner and in the spirit of mutual cooperation.
The ground reality for human rights in Iran remains very complex and challenging, and I cannot stress enough the importance of the General Assembly encouraging Iran to address that situation as a matter of the highest priority.