After a report from the UN Special Rapporteur for the Islamic Republic of Iran, Asma Jahangir, the meeting included a variety of responses from different countries as part of the 34th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council, which was held on March 13, 2017.
Iran’s representative, Kazem Gharibabadi, noted that “Iran was a great democracy”, but also indicated that they addressed human rights through the culture and religion of their country. He also indicated that Iran’s democracy should not be judged through secular democracy, while noting that Iran was part of several committees and organizations on human rights.
Other speakers focused on particular areas of concern, based on the report from the Special Rapporteur. One of the biggest areas noted by a number of speakers was Iran’s death penalty. Many of the countries’ representatives spoke out about the use of capital punishment for a variety of crimes, but also against the treatment of prisoners, particularly human rights activists and defenders. All ended their comments with questions for the Special Rapporteur as part of the interactive dialogue.
The UK remains deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Iran, particularly the continued and frequent use of the death penalty, according to UK representative Julian Braithwaite. He urged the Iranian government to put the moratorium in place quickly and to immediately cease and prohibit the sentencing children to the death penalty. Braithwaite also noted the continued persecution of religious minorities in Iran.
“We echo your call for Iranian authorities to recognize freedom of religion or belief entails the freedom to choose a religion or belief free from discriminatory or restrictive measures,” said Braithwaite.
He also acknowledged that the UK shares the concern that human rights defenders do not face prosecution for their work to defend and advance the rights of others. Based on the lack of real change after adjustments to the penal code, Braithwaite seemed to doubt that any current civil rights legislation was going to meet with much success.
Denmark’s representative, Lone Thorup, also addressed the high use of capital punishment by Iran for drug related offenses. She also noted that Iran continued to arbitrarily arrest dual citizens. According to Thorup, Denmark continues to urge Iran to follow international recommendations regarding human rights presented by the Special Rapporteur.
Germany’s representative, Antje Leenderste, also urged Iran to adopt a moratorium on the use of the death penalty or capital punishment, as well as to lift all death sentences for juvenile offenders and to retry these individuals in special youth courts. She also noted the continued persecution of religious and minority groups, along with the limits on freedom of assembly and expression. Her comments urged the Iranian government to comply with its obligations under the international agreements that it has signed.
The United States representative, Bill Mozdzierz, called on Iran to cooperate with the new Special Rapporteur and invite her for a country visit. He also urged the renewal of a mandate for the Special Rapporteur this session. After praising the efforts of the Special Rapporteur, he noted that reports on various human rights violations are happening daily. He noted many groups, including members of the press, facing intense persecution and discrimination contrary to Iran’s own laws.
He also noted that human rights violations are rarely investigated or prosecuted in Iran, allowing for more of these violations to occur through the various law enforcement branches, including the IRGC.
Roald Naess, representative of Norway, noted that his country remains worried about freedom of expression, especially the monitoring of social media and the targeting of young people who speak out against the actions of the Iranian government. He ended his comments by asking the Special Rapporteur if there were any bright spots of progress on the human rights front in Iran that could be considered a source of progress.
Notably, North Korea’s representative spoke out against the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for Iran, arguing that the council was politicalizing the issue of human rights, and should disregard “unsubstantiated reports” regarding any violations.
The Ireland representative, Nuala Ni Mhuircheartaigh, also addressed the death penalty, urging Iran to initiate an immediate moratorium on this practice, particularly in regards to juveniles. She also expressed support for the renewal of the mandate for the Special Rapporteur, noting that Iran’s progress to date makes her work necessary.
Throughout the interactive dialogue, countries continued to note that Iran’s use of the death penalty and discrimination against minorities, freedom of expression and assembly, as well as their rights under the law, needed to stop. Iran’s representative seemed to indicate a different level of progress, and did not appear to share the same concerns as others on the council.