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Iran: UN expert alarmed by detention conditions in the wake of recent protests

09 March 2020

GENEVA (9 March 2020) – Individuals detained in Iranian detention facilities are suffering from serious human rights violations and the situation of those arrested during the November 2019 protests is a subject of particular concern, said a UN expert in his latest report presented to the Human Rights Council.

Javaid Rehman, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, also highlighted that significant economic challenges in the country, worsened by sanctions, are having a significant impact on economic and social rights.

“I am concerned that the effect of sanctions has resulted in serious shortages of medication and medical equipment, including for rare and life-threatening conditions,” Rehman said. “I urge the countries imposing sanctions and the international community as a whole to take all measures to mitigate the negative impact of sanctions on human rights, especially the right to health.”

The UN expert also stressed his concern that the Iranian Government’s long-standing violations of the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association persist. Making specific reference to the Iranian authorities’ unprecedented lethal response to nationwide protests in November 2019, he reiterated his call for an independent and impartial investigation of the events and for perpetrators to be held accountable.

“During these protests, authorities used excessive force against individuals protesting fuel price rises and economic hardship, including aiming live ammunition at the head and organs. At least 300 people were killed, including over 20 children, a horrific violation of the right to life that I condemn in the strongest terms,” he said.

Concerns about detained protesters relate to Rehman’s findings on detention conditions and related fair trial rights. Detention conditions are below international standards set out in the Nelson Mandela Rules, while due process guarantees are also often violated. The Special Rapporteur is also alarmed at the prevalence of forced confessions due to torture, denial of medical treatment and other ill-treatment.

“While using confessions extracted through torture as evidence is prohibited under Iranian law, in practice forced confessions are frequently used as the sole basis for convictions,” the expert said.

“Overcrowding, poor nutrition and a lack of hygiene are also serious concerns. These issues indicate a high risk to prisoners’ health from malnutrition and disease. Recent reports indicate that the COVID-19 virus has spread inside Iranian prisons.”

Rehman expressed particular concern that some individuals detained during protests are reportedly being tortured to extract confessions, and that some have received harsh sentences, including the death penalty.

Other issues highlighted in his report include the arbitrary detention of women’s rights advocates, human rights defenders, lawyers, cultural workers and dual and foreign nationals; discrimination against minorities; and the continued execution of child offenders despite its strict prohibition under international human rights law.

The UN expert noted progress in certain areas, such as the new nationality law that allows Iranian mothers to pass on their citizenship to their children in most cases. Rehman also welcomed the Government’s increased engagement with international human rights mechanisms, including participation in the November 2019 universal periodic review and cooperation with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.


Javaid Rehman was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran by the UN Human Rights Council in July 2018. He 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.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Proceduresof 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

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