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Iran: UN expert says human rights should be at the heart of the response to challenges faced

NEW YORK (24 October 2018) - Mounting challenges in Iran should be met by a constructive response which places international human rights law at its heart, said Javaid Rehman, the new Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran.

While noting “potentially diverging views, including on the mandate itself”, the Special Rapporteur said he hoped to “build on the cordial cooperation” extended to him thus far through “constructive engagement” with Iran, and hoped to visit the country.

Presenting his first report to the General Assembly following his appointment in July, the Special Rapporteur welcomed the decision by Iran to amend its drug-trafficking law which led to a marked reduction in the number of those executed for drug offences.

The Special Rapporteur also expressed alarm that Zeinab Sekaanvand was executed on 1 October, noting that “she was the fifth juvenile offender executed this year” following a trial raising numerous due process concerns. He also recalled that there were numerous juvenile offenders currently on death row in Iran, including Mohammad Kalhori, Mehdi Khazaeian, Mohammad Haddadi, Pouria Tabaei, and Saleh Shariati. The Special Rapporteur appealed to the Iranian authorities to abolish the practice of sentencing children to death, and to commute all death sentences issued against children in line with international law.

“The challenges facing people in Iran these past months has been illustrated by numerous protests across the country,” the Special Rapporteur said. He said that the protests were fuelled by discontent relating to the enjoyment of economic and social rights and urged “the Government to both address the grievances underlying the protests, and also safeguard the right to freedom of association and assembly”. “In challenging times, the right to freedom of opinion, expression, and access to information are all the more important.” he added. 

Explaining that he will seek to address economic and social rights in the course of his mandate, the Special Rapporteur said he also intended to assess the possible negative impact of sanctions on the enjoyment of such rights.

He further described a number of long-standing issues of concern which he will seek to address including with respect to the right to life and to a fair trial; the recent arrests and treatment of human rights defenders, other civil society actors, and lawyers; and the rights of women, foreign and dual nationals, and groups in vulnerable situations in Iran.  The Special Rapporteur, in particular, expressed concern and alarm at the treatment of religious and ethnic minorities.


Javaid Rehman is a Professor of International Human Rights Law and Muslim Constitutionalism at Brunel University, London. Mr Rehman teaches human rights law and Islamic law and continues to publish extensively in the subjects of international human rights law, Islamic law and constitutional practices of Muslim majority States.  Several of his published works have been translated into various languages.  As a human rights lawyer, Mr Rehman has also provided legal opinions in various high-profile cases in a number of jurisdictions. On 6 July 2018, Mr. Rehman was appointed as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran. He commenced his duties officially on 13 July 2018 and will present his first report to the seventy-third session of the General Assembly.

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.

UN Human Rights, Country Page: Iran

For additional information, please email sr-iran@ohchr.org, or contact Gurdip Sangha (Tel. +41 22 928 9235 / email: gsangha@ohchr.org).

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact:  Jeremy Laurence – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383/ jlaurence@ohchr.org)

This year is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rights: www.standup4humanrights.org