With Flawed Legal System, Iran Continues to Violate Human Rights Say Top UN Officials

Source: Bahai International Community

Geneva—15 March 2016—Iran continues to violate a wide range of human rights, including those of its Baha’i citizens, according to reports issued by two high-level United Nations officials.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, both sent reports late last week to the Human Rights Council about the situation in Iran.

While they acknowledged minor progress, both said that Iran has overall failed to meet its obligation to uphold the rights of its citizens.

Mr. Ban highlighted an “alarmingly high rate” of executions, the use of corporal punishment including “amputation, flogging and forced blinding,” a crackdown on journalists and human rights defenders, restrictions on women, and unabated discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities.

Dr. Shaheed’s report focused on deficiencies of Iran’s justice system, saying many of its provisions run counter to international human rights law, leading to “serious problems” that require “immediate attention.”

The 2013 Penal Code, he said, criminalizes “the peaceful exercise of fundamental rights” and discriminates against girls, women and religious minorities.

Such defects are compounded by “by the failure of security officials and the Judiciary to properly implement national laws that would otherwise protect the rights of the accused, including fair trial guarantees and strict prohibitions on the use of torture and ill-treatment against detainees.”

Dr. Shaheed and Mr. Ban devoted considerable attention to the situation of religious minorities in Iran, expressing particular concern over discrimination against Baha’is, noting that there are currently some 80 Baha’is in prison for their religious beliefs, while more Baha’is continue to be arrested.

“No improvement was observed regarding the situation of religious and ethnic minorities, who remain subjected to restrictions,” said Mr. Ban, noting that Baha’i in particular lack protection under the constitution, “leaving them vulnerable to discrimination and judicial harassment and persecution.”

Dr. Shaheed said that in addition to “arbitrary arrests, detentions and prosecutions of Baha’is,” he “continues to receive troubling reports that Iranian authorities continue to pursue activities that economically deprive Baha’i’s of their right to work.”

“These policies include restrictions on types of businesses and jobs Baha’i citizens can have, closing down Baha’i-owned businesses, pressure on business owners to dismiss Baha’i employees, and seizures of businesses and property,” said Dr. Shaheed.

Both reports took note of statements by Iranian officials that their country’s record of violations is overstated or wrong.

Mr. Ban noted for example that authorities claimed no Baha’i had been prosecuted for his/her beliefs. Yet his report made simple statements of fact like this: “The desecration of Baha’i cemeteries and the campaign of incitement to hatred by spreading false statements in the state media, including State sponsored television and economic prohibition of businesses belonging to Baha’is continued in 2015.”

Dr. Shaheed likewise noted that government officials claimed that “followers of the Bahai cult enjoy citizen rights” in Iran. His report, however, listed a number of incidents that clearly refute such statements. These include the sentencing of 24 Baha’is in Golestan province in January to a collective 193 years in prison “in connection with the peaceful exercise of their faith”  and the closing of 23 Baha’i-owned businesses in the province of Mazandaran in November 2015.

Diane Ala’i, a representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva, welcomed both reports. “Both Mr. Ban and Dr. Shaheed have produced extremely fair-minded reports,” she said. “These unfortunately serve to highlight the degree to which Iran continues to fail to deliver on its pledges to heed international human rights law and the promises it has made to its citizens.

“They also confirm that Iranian Baha’is remain among the most persecuted groups in Iran, facing economic and educational discrimination in addition to the continual threat of arrest or imprisonment simply because of their religious beliefs and activities,” said Ms. Ala’i.

Mr. Ban’s full report can be read here, and Dr. Shaheed report can be accessed here.

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