UN monitor highlights failure of Iran's justice system

March 14, 2012

GENEVA, Switzerland — The United Nations investigator into human rights in Iran has sharply criticized the country's system of justice and human rights record.

UN Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed told a meeting of the Human Rights Council here that he had received testimony from more than 141 witnesses which highlighted "multifarious and systematic deficits in the Government's capacity to ensure respect for human rights."

And in his formal written report to the Council, Dr. Shaheed focused to an extent not previously seen in UN investigations of Iran on the overall failure of the country's justice system. Violations of due process were chronic, he said, and "vaguely defined security provisions" are applied in ways that "unduly limit freedom of expression, association and assembly."

"In many cases, witnesses reported that they were arrested for activities protected by international law, and that they were detained in solitary confinement for prolonged periods with no access to legal counsel or family members, and in the absence of formal charges," Dr. Shaheed told the meeting.

The Special Rapporteur reported a dramatic increase in the number of executions carried out in the Islamic Republic – more than 600 during the year 2011, many for crimes not considered serious under international law. Iranian authorities have also stepped up their detention of journalists and lawyers, he said, and continued their persecution of ethnic and religious minorities.

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Country and NGO representatives at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, participating in an interactive dialog with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, 12 March 2012.

Baha'is continue to be arbitrarily arrested and detained for their beliefs, noted Dr. Shaheed, in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Baha'is are also subjected to "severe socio-economic pressure," facing deprivations of "property, employment and education."

Monday's session offered an interactive dialogue between the Special Rapporteur and Human Rights Council members. His concerns were promptly echoed by a majority of the nations addressing the session. Some 15 countries specifically highlighted the situation of Iran's Baha'is.

Brazil's delegate – João Genésio de Almeida Filho – said his government had a "particular concern" about "allegations of the systematic persecution of members of unrecognized religious communities, particularly the Baha'i community."

Referring to Iran's state-sponsored campaign of demonizing Baha'is in the media, Veronika Stromsikova – delegate of the Czech Republic – said her country concurred with Dr. Shaheed's observation that "the government's tolerance of an intensive defamation campaign against members of the Baha'i community incites discrimination" in breach of international treaties.

Bani Dugal – the principal representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations – reported that Baha'is in Iran today face "multiple violations, across the entire spectrum of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights" running "literally from kindergarten to the grave."

"We also agree with your presentation of the underlying obstacles," she told Dr. Shaheed, "including elements of the legal framework and lack of adherence to the rule of law – none of which are being addressed by the government."

"As you clearly state, impunity continues to prevail in Iran, and certain individuals are exempted from laws and regulations meant to restrain the abuse of power," said Ms. Dugal.

Baha'i World News Service coverage of the persecution of the Baha'is in Iran

A Special Section includes detailed information about Iran's campaign to deny higher education to Baha'is. Another Special Report offers articles about the seven Iranian Baha'i leaders – their lives, their imprisonment, trial and sentencing.

The International Reaction page is regularly updated with responses from governments, nongovernmental organizations, and prominent individuals, to actions taken against the Baha'is of Iran. The Media Reports page presents a digest of media coverage from around the world.