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UN Panel Asks Iran To Protect Women, Minors And Improve Human Rights

Mohammad-Javad Larijani, Secretary-General of the High Council for Human Rights of the Islamic Republic of Iran, at a UN human rights meeting in 2018. File photo.
Mohammad-Javad Larijani, Secretary-General of the High Council for Human Rights of the Islamic Republic of Iran, at a UN human rights meeting in 2018. File photo.

A United Nations panel of 33 member states reviewed Iran’s human rights record in Geneva on Friday and voicing criticism offered their recommendations to improve women’s and minority rights and stop capital punishment.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group has made similar recommendations in the past but the human rights situation in Iran has shown little or no improvement.

In today's session, countries comprising the UPR recommended ways for Tehran to improve the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic.

The Iranian delegation headed by the Secretary-General of the High Council for Human Rights of the Islamic Republic, Mohammad Javad Larijani, responded to the criticisms aimed at Tehran.

Defending the Islamic Republic's human rights record, Larijani praised President Hassan Rouhani's "Citizens' Rights Charter" and amendment of the law concerning the death penalty for drug smugglers, as two outstanding "achievements" of the country.

However, Rouhani's Citizens' Rights Charter had earlier faced widespread opposition by the Islamic Republic's Judiciary, headed by Larijani's younger brother, Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani.

The mid-ranking cleric, the head of the judiciary at the time, had categorically dismissed the Citizens' Rights Charter as "against the law, and Shari'a (Islamic regulations.)

Critics regard Rouhani’s charter as having no impact in protecting freedom of speech or sheltering citizens from arbitrary arrests and detentions. Security forces and conservative courts act with impunity in their violations of human rights.

Furthermore, the Judiciary under Amoli Larijani had opposed amending an act that led to a decrease in the number of executions in Iran.

Nonetheless, Iran’s parliament ultimately passed the amendment regardless of the Judiciary's opposition.

During the Friday gathering in Geneva, the representatives of different countries mainly recommended Iran to avoid violating women's rights.

The representatives of 33 countries present in Geneva also urged the Islamic Republic to ratify the International Convention for banning discrimination against women.

Furthermore, they called upon Iran to ban underage marriages, and lift restrictions on women’s dress code.

Responding to the recommendations, an Iranian legislator and member of the country's delegation, Ms. Farideh Owlad Qobad, maintained that Tehran has ratified a bill concerning the protection of women against violence, and a significant number of Iranian women serve at high managerial positions in the country's universities.

Larijani, for his part, insisted that forcing anyone to marry counts as a crime in Iran. Nevertheless, the legal system allows thousands of marriages for underage people, especially girls as young as 13.

In the meantime, representatives of the Czech Republic, Portugal, Norway, Poland, Canada, Greece, Lithuania, Spain, Australia, Uruguay, Israel, Argentina, and Austria called for banning the death penalty, explicitly hanging minors, in Iran.

The representative of Montenegro also called for setting a deadline for Tehran to ban the death penalty.

Responding to the recommendations, Mohammad Javad Larijani denied that minors are executed in Iran, and asserted that Qisas, which is a Sharia principle of "retaliation in kind" or "eye for an eye", or retributive justice, is a public right, and has got nothing to do with the political establishment of the country.

However, the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Situation in Iran, Javaid Rehman said in his latest report last October that Iran executed seven child offenders last year and two so far this year although it is prohibited to apply the death penalty to anyone under age eighteen, according to human rights law.

Currently, there are 90 individuals on death row who were under age eighteen at the time of their offenses, Rehman said, and that as of mid-July, at least 173 executions were carried out, including two 17-year-olds, based on "conservative estimates."

The expert noted that the execution rate in Iran is dropping, but still "remains one of the highest in the world."

During the Friday session, the representatives of Switzerland, Norway, Brazil, South Korea, and Bahrain urged Iran to remove hurdles that religious minorities are struggling with.

The representative of Saudi Arabia went further, calling for the elimination of Article 12 of the Islamic Republic that stipulates the country’s official religion is Shiism.

Moreover, Larijani denied that followers of the Baha'i faith are persecuted in Iran, asserting, "The Islamic Republic does not recognize Baha'is as a religious minority, yet, they enjoy all citizens and legal rights in Iran." However, numerous human rights reports have detailed persecution of the Baha’i community members in Iran since the Islamic Republic was established in 1979.

While calling for banning compulsory hijab, U.S. representative demanded the release of its citizens and Iranian-Americans held captive in the Islamic Republic.

The French representative had a similar request, demanding the release of Iranian-French sociologist and lecturer, Fariba Adelkhah, and her French friend, Roland Marchal, who have been held in Iran without a fair trial.