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Statement by Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, at the 75th session of the General Assembly - Item 72(c)

NEW YORK - 26 October 2020


Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank you for the honour of addressing you today as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The report I present outlines my grave concerns regarding the human rights situation in Iran, characterized by systematic violations of human rights and continued impunity. These conclusions come from my investigation into the violent Government crackdown against November 2019 and January 2020 protests, the use of torture and harsh sentences against those who protested, the harassment of victims calling for justice and the lack of accountability for those responsible.

The excessive and lethal force used by security forces against the nationwide protests amounted to the worst incident of State violence in Iran in decades. State security officials intentionally used live ammunition against protesters, often aimed at the head or vital organs, resulting in over 300 verified deaths, including women and children, although the death toll is likely to be higher. Despite strong evidence of this blatant disregard for Iran's obligation to protect the right to life and to protect freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, no information was provided that any investigation consistent with international standards has been conducted to hold those responsible to account, and almost a year on, no official announcement has been made concerning the number of deaths and injuries.

Furthermore, the victims' families who have called for justice have faced intimidation and arrest from the authorities, or have been pressured to accept a compensation payment to drop their calls for justice. I urge the Iranian Government to work with families, not against them, and to bring those responsible for the deaths and injuries to justice.

Equally disturbing are consistent reports from detained protesters of how they were tortured into forced confessions, including accounts of physical beatings, sexual assaults, solitary confinement, and detention of relatives. Many were also forcibly disappeared. Some protesters, such as Amirhossein Moradi, Mohammad Rajabi and Saeed Tamjidi, have been sentenced to death based on torture-induced confessions and after unfair trials. I welcome the re-trial ordered in their cases, which must be before an independent and impartial tribunal. I call for their immediate release pending trial, as well as all others deprived of their liberty for exercising their human rights during the protests.


A clear pattern is emerging of an attempt to silence public dissent over the social, economic and political situation in Iran. In recent months, death sentences and executions have taken place against individuals alleged to have taken part in protests.

An emblematic case was the arbitrary execution of Navid Afkari on 12 September 2020 in relation to his involvement in August 2018 protests. This grievous violation of the right to life is the latest execution in a series of protest-related death sentences, despite allegations of torture-induced forced confessions and other serious fair trial violations.

These cases add to long-term concerns over the high execution rate in Iran, including against child offenders. In 2019, 280 individuals were executed, with a further 209 executions in 2020 as of 10 October. This included at least four child offenders in 2019, and at least three in 2020. I again urge Iran to abolish the application of the death penalty against child offenders and for offences not deemed most serious crimes.


Iran has been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and I am concerned by reports that sanctions have seriously impacted the country's response to this health crisis. While the Iranian Government has the primary obligation to protect the right to health, I echo the Secretary-General's calls for sanctions relief to ensure that Iran has unimpeded access to vital medical supplies to combat this deadly virus.

I recognise steps taken by the Iranian authorities through directives to initially temporarily release over 120,000 prisoners to mitigate COVID-19 in prisons. However, apart from a few exceptions, individuals from targeted groups - including human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, conservationists, political activists and dual and foreign nationals – have not benefitted from these directives. Alarming prison conditions exacerbate these concerns, which have caused prisoners to contract the virus, resulting in deaths.


The Iranian Government continues to arbitrarily detain individuals for exercising or defending human rights. I am deeply concerned to see human rights defenders near the end of their arbitrary imprisonment be convicted on new charges and imprisoned again. Harassment and imprisonment of their relatives also continues.

Internationally recognized Iranian human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh is serving a lengthy sentence for her human rights legal work. Instead of releasing her to access medical treatment for her critical medical condition, she was transferred from Evin Prison to Qarchak Prison, notorious for its poor conditions. I urge the Iranian authorities to immediately release her and to allow her to obtain urgent medical treatment.

I welcomed the recent release of human rights defender, Narges Mohammadi, after the judiciary reduced her sentence. However, I encourage the Iranian authorities to drop new charges laid against her in February 2020 and to allow her to freely continue her human rights work.

I continue to be deeply concerned by the arbitrary detention of dual and foreign nationals. I welcomed the temporary release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. However, I remain concerned that she is under electronic monitoring with an ankle tag and that she may face a new trial. I call for the immediate release of all dual and foreign nationals arbitrarily detained.

A continued lack of protections for women and girls against violence, including honour killings continues to be a serious concern. Discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities continues, especially detentions related to their religion or ethnicity, and the high number of executions of political prisoners from ethnic minority communities after unfair trials.

Finally, I thank the Iranian Government for its engagement with my mandate. While this continued dialogue on human rights issues is appreciated, I regret that my numerous requests to visit Iran have not been accepted.

Thank you.