The report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran was released in March 2017. This report focused on specific developments in Iran’s human rights situation since the fall of 2016.
First, the Special Rapporteur noted that she “does not reveal any notable improvement in the situation of human rights in the country.” She noted “that the situation in areas like independence of judiciary and lawyers, freedom of expression and use of arbitrary detentions continues to be a matter of serious concern. Some measures are underway, but their implementation and effectiveness is yet to be assessed.”
One of the areas that continues to come up is the torture and degrading treatment of prisoners and citizens being detained by various agencies, including the morality police. Since the appointment of the Special Rapporteur, she has received numerous reports about the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This includes the continued use of amputations, blinding and floggings as a form of punishment, reliance on physical and mental torture or ill-treatment to coerce confessions, use of prolonged period in solitary confinement and the denial of access to proper and necessary medical treatment for detainees.
According to official Iranian media, the government carried out a blinding sentence in November in one of the prisons near Tehran. The same month, authorities reportedly blinded both eyes of a man from Kurdistan province identified as “Mohammad Reza” as punishment for throwing lime into the eyes of a child, which blinded her.
In the case of Ms. Akbari Monfared, who was serving 15 years in prison in relation to her membership in the banned opposition group known as the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), the denial of medical treatment reportedly took place after she published a letter demanding justice for her brothers and sisters who were reportedly executed in 1988. The Iranian government responded to most of these cases indicating that prisoners were in good health and they were benefiting from proper health and medical facilities.
In December, Ms. Nazanin Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian charity worker, was reportedly pressured to choose between moving her two-year-old daughter into prison or signing a document renouncing all her rights regarding her child. The child’s British passport had been confiscated and her father has been unable to get access to his daughter.
According to international law, any substantive grounds for arrest or detention must be prescribed by law and should be defined with sufficient precision to avoid overly broad or arbitrary interpretation or application. The current Rapporteur’s predecessor observed that a number of offenses are vaguely and broadly defined. These crimes include “crimes against God”, insulting or cursing the Holy Prophet, consensual heterosexual or same-sex relations between adults, and apostasy. Individuals convicted of some of these crimes are not generally allowed to seek a pardon or have their sentences commuted, in contravention of international law.
Individuals are also being arrested without warrants and they are not being informed regarding the reasons or circumstances of their arrest and their families are not informed of their whereabouts.
Throughout this report, the Special Rapporteur was continually confronted with examples where individuals were unable to access legal counsel. Protests against the government have also been oppressed, despite laws that claim individuals have the right to freedom of speech. As of December 2016, at least 24 journalists, bloggers and social media activists were reportedly either in detention or sentenced for their peaceful activities. Reports suggest that many others are regularly subjected to interrogations, surveillance, and other forms of harassment and intimidation. Some 5 million websites remain blocked in the country, with the top 500 websites blocked dedicated to the arts, social issues, news and other popular culture issues.
In addition to lawyers and human rights defenders, the Special Rapporteur noted restrictions on the freedom of association and assembly of workers and labor activists who are often not allowed to establish independent unions. Those unions who choose to protest for unpaid wages are often met by the anti-riot police.
It is also a crime to criticize government officials or to publish what is deemed “false news” by 74 lashes. According to the Iranian government, “in Iran, insulting committed leaders, great personalities and thinkers, is unthinkable and many countries…have criminalized such insulting behaviors.”
There are multiple areas where the report focused on violations of the international human rights laws that Iran has agreed to, the Iranian regime is operating without accountability to the international community.