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Iran Slammed In U.S. Human Rights Report

U.S. -- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during the release of the 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices at the Department of State in Washington, March 13, 2019

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has lambasted the Islamic Republic for the continuous violation of Iranian citizens' fundamental rights.

Speaking March 13 on the release of the U.S. State Department’s Country Reports On Human Rights, Pompeo accused the Islamic Republic of killing dozens of people and arresting thousands more without due process just for protesting for their rights.

"In response to nationwide protests that began in late December 2017 and continued throughout the year, the government used harsh tactics against protesters. Human rights organizations reported at least 30 deaths of protesters during the year, thousands of arrests, and suspicious deaths in custody," the annual report noted.

The report decried the "arbitrary deprivation of life and other unlawful or politically motivated killings" in Iran, citing the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) as saying, "At least two detainees died in detention--Sina Ghanbari in Evin Prison and Vahid Heydari in the 12th Police Station in Arak. According to reports, the bodies of the detainees were quickly buried without an investigation or autopsy, and officials claimed the deaths were suicides.”

Crime And Punishment

The State Department report criticizes the Islamic Penal Code for its death penalty practices, including allowing the execution of juvenile offenders at age nine for girls and age thirteen for boys. it condemns what it describes as "execution with torture," including hanging by cranes.

According to the report, prosecutors frequently used “waging war against God” as a capital offense against political dissidents and journalists, accusing them of “struggling against the precepts of Islam” and against the state that upholds those precepts. Authorities expanded the scope of this charge to include “working to undermine the Islamic establishment” and “cooperating with foreign agents or entities.”

Furthermore, the report notes that prison conditions in Iran were harsh and potentially life-threatening due to food shortages, gross overcrowding, physical abuse, and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care. Prisoner hunger strikes in protest of their treatment were frequent.

The report cites the "United for Iran" organization as saying that on average, there were an estimated 800-900 prisoners of conscience held in the country at any given time during the year, including those jailed for their religious beliefs.

Stoking Conflict

The U.S. State Department accused Tehran of recruiting Iraqi, Afghan, and Pakistani Shia fighters to support the Assad regime and thus prolonging the civil war, leading to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians.

In the meantime, in Iraq, the report affirms, "Iran directly supported certain Iraqi Shia militias, including designated foreign terrorist organization Kata’ib Hezbollah, which reportedly was complicit in summary executions and other human rights abuses of civilians in Iraq."

Moreover, the report accuses Tehran of providing hundreds of millions of dollars in support to the Houthi rebels in Yemen and exacerbating the conflict.

Civil Liberties

The report lists violations of civil liberties, including freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, media, academic freedom, and cultural Events, as well as the freedom to participate in the political process.

"The government restricted and disrupted access to the Internet, monitored private online communications, and censored online content. Individuals and groups practiced self-censorship online," the report discloses.

Blasting the Islamic Republic for its unfair electoral system that bans independent candidates from running for a public office or a parliamentary seat, the report has also blamed Tehran for "corruption and lack of transparency in government.
Tax-exempted endowed religious charitable foundations, accounted for a quarter to a third of the country’s economy, have also been targeted by the report.

"The government restricted the operations of and did not cooperate with local or international human rights NGOs investigating alleged violations of human rights. The government restricted the work of domestic activists and often responded to their inquiries and reports with harassment, arrests, online hacking, and monitoring of individual activists and organization workplaces," the report avers.

Discrimination and Labor Rights

The report has listed cases of discrimination, including against women, ethnic and religious minorities, and trafficking in persons.

A widespread complaint among ethnic minority groups during the year, particularly among Khuzestanis, Azeris, and Lors, the report notes, "was that the government diverted and mismanaged natural resources, primarily water, often for the benefit of IRGC [the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps]-affiliated contractors."

The report cites international media and human rights reports that these practices have devastated the local environment on which farmers and others depended for their livelihoods and well-being, resulting in forced migration and further marginalization of these communities.

"Throughout the year the government forcefully cracked down on environment-related protests that were largely centered in these ethnic minority communities," says the report.

The report also dedicated a section to workers rights, freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.

"In workplaces where workers established an Islamic labor council, authorities did not permit any other form of worker representation. The law requires prior authorization for organizing and concluding collective agreements. Strikes are prohibited in all sectors, although private sector workers may conduct 'peaceful' campaigns within the workplace. The law does not apply to establishments with fewer than 10 employees," the report concludes.