UN rapporteur reports lack of human rights progress in Iran

Report notes at least 852 executions in Iran over the past 12-15 months.

An Iranian woman attends a religious conference in Tehran (photo credit: REUTERS)
An Iranian woman attends a religious conference in Tehran
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BERLIN – Iran has seen an increase in state-sponsored executions over the past year, said the UN’s special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic, who was presenting his latest report to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.
Dr. Ahmed Shaheed told reporters that he was “shocked over the weekend by the execution of Ms. Reyhaneh Jabbari.”
The 26-year-old Jabbari had been convicted of murdering an intelligence official she accused of trying to rape her as a teenager. She walked to the gallows at dawn on Saturday in Tehran’s Evin prison after failing to secure a reprieve from the dead man’s relatives within the 10-day deadline set by Sharia law, which has been in force since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
“I have raised issues about her conviction on several occasions with the government of Iran and have not received a satisfactory reply with regard to the points raised, essentially about the fairness of the trial that she was given,” said Shaheed.
The death sentence sparked US and European Union condemnation.
Regarding the execution, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opposed capital punishment in all cases.
Shaheed noted an increase in executions in Iran over the past 12-15 months – roughly corresponding to the time President Hassan Rouhani, who won election last year on promises of liberal reform at home and easing Iran’s isolation abroad, has been in office.
“At least 852 individuals were executed in the period since June of last year, including eight juveniles,” he said. “I also noted a widening of the range of offenses for which people are being put to death, including economic crimes as well as, in some cases, clear political activities.”
He did not specify a rate of increase since Rouhani took office, but Shaheed’s new report to the General Assembly states that the number of executions in 2013 increased to 687 from 580 in 2012.
The report outlined widespread discrimination against women and religious and ethnic minorities. There was one mention of Iran’s tiny Jewish community in the report.
“Prospective state officials and employees, to demonstrate allegiance to the Islamic Republic of Iran and the state religion, might limit employment opportunities and political participation for, among others, persons of Arab, Azeri, Balochi, Jewish, Armenian and Kurdish communities,” it said.
Shaheed also criticized Iran’s record on freedom of information.
He said about 35 journalists were under detention in the country.
Another problem is religious persecution, he said. Shaheed reported that at least 300 people were under detention because of their religious practices, including 120 members of the Baha’i community and 49 Christians, as well as Dervishes and practitioners of other faiths.
He also said the situation of women in the Islamic Republic had deteriorated, adding that the number of women enrolled at Iranian universities had decreased to 48 percent in 2013-14 from 62% in 2007-08.
Iran on Tuesday dismissed a UN investigator's allegations of severe human rights abuses in the Islamic Republic, saying the criticisms were aimed at inciting "Iranophobia and Islamophobia."
Iranian envoy Forouzandeh Vadiati told the UN General Assembly's Third Committee, which focuses on human rights, that its discussion of her country was a "fruitless annual ritual."
She said Shaheed's criticisms were encouraged by "certain countries' foreign policies" and "the final gain that they aim to achieve is to enhance their project of Iranophobia and Islamophobia."
Vadiati also rejected the idea that the situation of women in Iran has deteriorated. Shaheed's report said the number of women enrolled at Iranian universities has decreased to 48 percent in 2013-2014 from 62 percent in 2007-2008.
She also dismissed the idea that torture was used in Iran, noting that it is illegal under Iranian law, and did not refer to the case of Jabbari.
Shaheed’s report chronicled extraordinary suffering of prisoners, including torture and psychological abuse, “such as prolonged solitary confinement, mock executions and the threat of rape, along with physical abuse, including severe beatings, use of suspension and pressure positions, electroshock and burnings.”
There were also “reports of amputation and corporal punishment (e.g. flogging).”
He noted intense state-sponsored persecution of the minority Baha’i community.
Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian- Israeli Middle East analyst and a lecturer at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, told The Jerusalem Post that the Baha’i community faced “apartheid in a pure form” from Iran’s regime.
Javedanfar said that “the same brutal regime that killed demonstrators in 2009” was running the country behind the scenes. He stressed that when analyzing Iran, one had to recognize that its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was the one exercising control over the Iranian state, not Rouhani.
Muhammad Javad Larijani, the secretary of Iran’s Human Rights Council, rejected Shaheed’s report.
On the website of the Fars news agency, which is affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard Corps, he commented on Sunday that “we have serious problems with the special rapporteur, and since the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Ahmad Shaheed is the third UN special rapporteur.”
He stated that “we do not want Shaheed to be our friend. We only say that he should not take political stances against Iran.”
Larijani, who has defended the stoning of women and who denied the Holocaust at a German Foreign Ministry event, listed six points of disagreement with Shaheed, but offered no specific evidence for his allegations in the Fars news report.
The regime has consistently denied Shaheed entry to the country. Human rights experts have widely praised Shaheed’s meticulous reports over the years.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power tweeted on Friday, “Met w/ @shaheedsr, who gives voice to ppl of Iran, but govt refuses to give him access & continues rights violations.”
Nasrin Amirsedghi, a prominent German-Iranian intellectual who fled the Islamic Republic, told the Post that “there can be absolutely no trust with the Islamic government.”
She advocates the dissolution of the mullah regime, saying its Sharia law system does not permit progress in human rights.
“Iran’s justice system is not independent. The foundation of Iran’s constitution is Sharia, and it is deeply anchored in Sharia law,” Amirsedghi said.
The strict enforcement of Sharia law covers a wide range of human behavior, including punishing women who fail to cover their hair.
Reuters contributed to this report.