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Human Rights Organizations Warn UN Over Widespread Human Violations In Iran

Delegates attend the opening day of the 40th session of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council on February 25, 2019 in Geneva. File photo

Thirty-nine Iranian and international human rights organizations have called for the term extension of the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights on Iran, voicing deep concern about serious violations in the country.

In a joint letter to the UN Human Rights Council, the organizations accused Iran of "widespread and systematic violations of a large array of human rights," including the violent crackdown on protests against a gas price hike in November 2019.

Among the signatory organizations is Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Committee to Protect Journalists and several Iranian rights defenders.

"This severe crackdown has also involved the arrest of around 7,000 people, according to a spokesperson for Iran’s parliamentary committee for national security and foreign policy, as well as widespread patterns of enforced disappearances, incommunicado detentions, and torture and other ill-treatment of detainees. Iranian officials called for charges that carry the death penalty against protest ‘leaders’, creating an urgent concern for the fate of those arrested; three men have already been convicted of ‘enmity against God’ (moharebeh) and sentenced to death in a grossly unfair trial in connection with acts of arson that took place during the November 2019 protests," The letter said.

The organizations added: "Hundreds more have been convicted of vague and broad national security-related charges, often stemming from the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, and sentenced up to 10 years in prison as well as, in some cases, flogging. Courts relied on torture-tainted “confessions” as evidence on which they based their verdicts, even when retracted by defendants."

They say in their letter that gross violation of human rights in Iran justifies the extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for Human Rights.

The current special rapporteur for Iran, Mr. Javed Rehman of the Brunel University of London was appointed by the United Nations in 2018 after the death of his predecessor Ms. Asma Jahangir. However, he has been denied entry to Iran to inspect the situation of human rights.

Mr. Rehman's mandate can be extended on an annual basis for up to six years. Several other previous rapporteurs had also been denied entry into Iran.

A large part of the letter is about the Iranian government's reaction to the November protests that were triggered by a sudden hike in gas price but soon turned into demonstrations that targeted the Islamic Republic's leaders.

The signatories presented evidence and accused the Islamic Republic of "unlawful killing of hundreds of protesters and bystanders, including children, who posed no imminent threat to life or serious injury."

London-based Amnesty International has so far documented the killing of 304 Iranians by the security forces during the November protests, adding that the actual number of those killed is higher.

Iran's Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli has recently said implicitly that the government forces have killed 225 protesters during the protests.

Meanwhile, Reuters has quoted several Iranian officials close to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's office as saying that up to 1,500 demonstrators were killed during the November protests.

Arresting and handing down long-term jail sentences to labor activists, as well as women, environmentalists and journalists, violating the rights of religious minorities are among the reasons that prompted international human rights organizations to call for the extension of the mandate of the special rapporteur for human rights in Iran.

The UN Human Rights Council replaced the UN Human Rights Commission that had appointed Reynaldo Galindo Pohl (1965 to 1973) and Maurice Copithorne as Special Rapporteurs for Human Rights in Iran from 1974 to 1980.

The two visited Iranian prisoners and met with Iranian officials at the time, but after 1980, Iran has constantly refused to accept UN Rapporteurs and levelled accusations against them including maintaining ties with terrorist organizations and being influenced by Iranian opposition groups abroad.

Meanwhile, earlier in June, in its annual report on religious freedoms, the United States accused Iran of widespread violations of the rights of religious minorities, including Baha'i and Sunni citizens.

The U.S. annual report on religious freedom also criticized the Islamic Republic's Constitution which is based on Sharia and considers heavy punishment of those who have abandoned their Islamic faith for another. The punishment in some cases could be the death penalty for "waging war against God".