The Amnesty International Report 2016/2017 was recently released, focusing on the state of the world’s human rights. The report listed not only regions, but also individual countries. Iran was included in the report and the findings demonstrate the oppressive regime that the Iranian people are living under.
In March 2016, the UN Human Rights Council renewed the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur regarding the human rights situation in Iran. However, the government continues to deny the Special Rapporteur entry into Iran, and it has also blocked access to other UN human rights experts. Iran’s government and the EU have discussed initiating a renewed bilateral human rights dialogue.
Iran has come under international scrutiny for its executions of juvenile offenders and the impact of public executions on children who witness them. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which conducted their 3rd and 4th period reviews, criticized the continued discrimination against girls; children of religious and ethnic minorities; lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) children; and the low age at which children, but girls in particular, become criminally liable.
The plight of its youngest citizens was not the only focus of the report. Iran has been cracking down even further on the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. Peaceful critics have been arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned on national security charges. The targeted individuals include human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, bloggers, students, trade union activists, film makers, poets, musicians, poets, women’s rights activists, ethnic and religious minority activists, and those who campaign for environmental issues or are anti-death penalty.
At the close of 2016, Amnesty noted that many prisoners of conscience undertook hunger strikes to protest not only their own unjust imprisonment, but also to expose the abusive nature of the Iran’s penal system. Human rights activists found themselves being sentenced to long prison terms for their activities. Criticism of Iran’s human rights on social media or reaching out to international human rights organizations, including the UN Special Rapporteur and Amnesty International, were considered “criminal” activism and deemed a threat to national security.
The government has also cracked down on social gatherings, even some that were licensed by its own Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Other repressed social activities include private mixed-gender parties that were deemed socially perverse and the result was the arrests of hundreds. Many were then sentenced to floggings.
All types of media are also being censored, with foreign satellite TV broadcasts being jammed; closing or suspending newspapers; and forcing a women’s rights magazine to suspend publication. In February, according to the report, a judicial order added WhatsApp, Line and Tango to the list of blocked social media sites. The list already included Facebook and Twitter. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Cyber Crime Unit blocked or closed down hundreds of Telegram and Instagram accounts. Being an administrator of any of the groups or channels on these sites meant you were likely to be summoned for interrogation, as part of a massive crackdown on social media activities, which have been deemed “threatening to moral security”. A large number of those interrogated include several hundred fashion designers and employees of fashion boutiques.
The media, however, reached out to President Rouhani, urging him through an open letter from the suspended Association of Iranian Journalists to honor his 2013 election pledge to lift its suspension. There were 92 student groups that urged the President o release universities from the grip of fear and repression. The Teachers’ Trade Association was not permitted to renew its license and several of its members were sentenced to long prison terms on charges that included being members of an “illegal group”.
Protests were being suppressed and those who participated are subject to beatings and arbitrary detention. A new Law on Political Crimes, which took effect in June 2016, criminalized all expression deemed to be “against the management of the country and its political institutions and domestic and foreign policies” and made “with intent to reform the affairs of the country without intending to harm the basis of the establishment”.
Once an individual has been detained, they are now subject to torture or other ill-treatment, used to force confessions. Conditions in the prisons include a lack of necessities, including food, clean water, and medical treatment.
Allegations of torture and other ill-treatment are ignored by the authorities and the complainants are threatened with further torture and ill-treatment. Despite knowing how these confessions are being obtained, judges are admitting them as evidence against the defendants. Yet these codes are considered inadmissible under the 2015 Code of Criminal Procedure. Other provisions of the code, including the provision guaranteeing the detainee’s right to access a lawyer from the time of arrest and during the investigation stage, are frequently ignored in practice.
Medical care is also denied frequently to prisoners, both by judges and prison authorities. This denial was meant to punish prisoners and coerce “confessions”. In June 2016, Nader Dastanpour died in custody, as result of injuries his family claims were inflicted during torture while at the Tehran police station. There was no independent investigation of the allegations reported.
Some of the inhuman or degrading punishments inflicted on prisoners including floggings, amputation of fingers, toes, hands, blindings and others. Various punishments, including floggings, were also done in public. These punishments were also given based on “moral” crimes, including dancing and mingling at a graduation party; miners who protested against employment conditions; and “publishing lies” and “creating unease in the public mind” through a blogger’s writings.
Iran has also compiled a record of unfair trials, due in part to a judiciary that isn’t independent. The Special Court for Clergy and the Revolutionary Courts remained susceptible to pressure from security and intelligence forces to convict defendants and impose harsh sentences. The result is intimidation and oppression of the Iranian population. Their own 2015 Code of Criminal Procedure is routinely ignored and officials exercise judicial power, especially those from the Ministry of Intelligence and the Revolutionary Guards.
Freedom of religion and belief are also denied, as the entire population is living under Islamic law, even if they are not Muslims. Members of religious minorities, including Sufis, Yaresan, Christians, Baha’is, and Sunni Muslims, routinely face discrimination in law and practice, including education, employment, and inheritance. They are also being persecuted for practicing their faith.
Hate crimes and speech are allowed to be committed with impunity against Baha’is and many of them have been imprisoned on trumped up national security charges imposed for peacefully practicing their religious beliefs.
Ethnic minorities also face entrenched discrimination, which curtails their access to employment, adequate housing, political office, and their exercising of cultural, civil, and political rights. Poverty becomes even more entrenched for these minorities, as they continue to economically neglect minority-populated regions.
If members of these minorities speak out against violations of their political, cultural, and linguistic rights, they face arbitrary arrest, torture, and other ill-treatment. Dozens of Kurds were reportedly arrested without warrant for their real or perceived affiliations with the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran after it renewed armed opposition to the Iranian authorities in March. Scores of Kurds served prison sentences or remained under sentence of death for membership in or sympathy with banned Kurdish opposition groups.