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Juvenile death penalty, maladministration of justice, and denial of fundamental freedoms top list of serious concerns in Iran, UN expert

GENEVA (14 March 2016) – The United Nations the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, today raised continuing concerns about the extremely high rate of executions, especially for juvenile offenders, and fundamental flaws in the administration of justice. Iran executed at least 966 prisoners in 2015, the highest such rate in over two decades.

“With at least 16 juvenile offenders reportedly hanged between 2014-15, Iran remains one of only a few countries still resorting to this practice despite a strict prohibition against it under international law,” Mr. Shaheed said, presenting his latest report* to the UN Human Rights Council.

“I urge Iranian officials to put aside efforts at piecemeal reform in this area and ensure, once and for all, that no boy or girl who commits a crime under the age of 18 is ever put to death,” he stated.

Mr. Shaheed also highlighted fundamental flaws in the administration of criminal justice, ranging from laws that expressly violate Iran’s legal obligations to the failure  of security, intelligence and judiciary officials to faithfully and properly implement provisions of Iranian law that comply with international law.

While acknowledging positive steps towards real legal reform, he also noted reports that individuals accused of national security and drug crimes are often deprived of the most basic due process and fair trial rights, including proper access to lawyers, long periods of incommunicado detention, torture and ill-treatment and forced confessions used in court to secure convictions.

“Despite recent changes to laws which grant greater procedural safeguards to those suspected of crimes, including the right to access a lawyer at all stages of criminal proceedings, these vital protections are not always implemented in practice,” he said. “There remains a considerable gap between protections afforded to the accused in Iranian law and the reality on the ground.”

Mr. Shaheed’s report, which assesses developments in the human rights situation in Iran since the UN expert last reported to the UN General Assembly in October 2015, also covers other areas of serious concern such as restrictions on the right to freedom of expression, freedom of association and the right to free and fair elections, women’s rights and concerns regarding the rights of religious and ethnic minorities. He expressed particular concern about the continued persecution of the members of the Baha’i community and the denial of their fundamental rights.

The Special Rapporteur acknowledged efforts taken by the Iranian officials to engage with his mandate and cooperate with UN human rights bodies, and called on the international community to continue supporting the Government in realising its human rights obligations.

The expert congratulated Iran for the successful parliamentary and the Assembly of Experts elections of 26 February 2016, and expressed hope that the new parliament will play a key role in the realisation of human rights by devising policies and laws that are based on international human rights standards.

He also renewed his call on the Government to increase its engagement with the international community, including the United Nations human rights mechanisms, by admitting him for a country visit.

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s report (A/HRC/31/69):  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session31/Pages/ListReports.aspx

Ahmed Shaheed (the Maldives) is a Visiting Professor at Essex University, UK; a former member of the Maldivian presidential Commission Investigating Corruption; and a foreign policy advisor to the President of the Maldives. Mr. Shaheed was Foreign Minister of the Maldives from 2005 to 2007 and from 2008 to 2010. He led the country’s efforts to sign and ratify all nine international human rights Conventions and to implement them in law and practice. He was appointed as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran in June 2011 by the UN Human Rights Council. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/IRIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Check the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CCPR.aspx
And the Convention on the Rights of the Child: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CRC.aspx

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Iran: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/IRIndex.aspx  

For more information and media requests please contact Naveed Ahmed (+41 22 928 9477 / nahmed@ohchr.org) or write to sr-iran@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Mr. Xabier Celaya – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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