On Human Rights Day 2009: A Look at Iran

Posted in Iran | 11-Dec-09 | Author: Diana Gregor| Source: Réalité EU

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad answers questions of journalists during a meeting with AFP in Copenhagen.

Since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected President of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 2005, the human rights situation there has deteriorated dramatically. [1] In the aftermath of the Iranian elections on June 12, 2009 the human rights situation has deteriorated even further. [2] Between June 12, 2009 and August 2009, 115 people were executed. [3] Torture, systematic arrests, and imprisonment are usual occurrences. Iran currently has the distinction of having the world's highest record of public hangings and executions. [4] Ahmadinejad has raised he number of executions from 86 in 2005, when he took office as president for the first time to 346 in 2008. [5]

In its recently released 2009 annual Report, Amnesty International highlights that the death penalty has been used extensively by Iran and that the Islamic Republic is "one of a tiny minority of states where juvenile offenders continue to be executed". [6]

Death penalty and torture

  • Following the June elections, authorities banned demonstrations. Security and intelligence as well as Basij militias brutally attacked demonstrators, using batons, tear-gas, pepper-spray, water cannon, chains, and live ammunition and plastic bullets, killing an undetermined number. [7]
  • Since November 22, 2009, five Iranians connected to the protests following the elections have been sentenced to death. [8]
  • After Iran's presidential elections, Iranian authorities arrested more than 4000 Iranian protesters. [9] In July 2009, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that Iranian authorities were using prolonged, harsh interrogations, beatings, sleep deprivation and threats of torture to get false confessions from detainees. [10]
  • More than 100 people are in jail after being arrested in the aftermath of the elections. These include more university professors and student leaders, as well as former government. Cellphone services have been cut off or drastically reduced, a step taken by Iranian authorities to diminish communication whenever there is a protest. [11]
  • Shortly before a recent anti-government rally in Tehran on December 7, 2009, an event that takes place every Saturday since the death of Neda Agha-Soltan in June 2009, Iranian authorities arrested over 20 mothers who were mourning children killed in the demonstrations since the presidential elections. [12]
  • In November 6, 2009, Human Rights Watch asked that Iran's judiciary investigate cases of sexual assaults in prison and prosecute those responsible instead of covering up crimes. Human Rights Watch reported of three cases of sexual assault in Iranian prisons on prisoners arrested since Iran's presidential elections. [13]
  • Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International's (AI) Middle East and North Africa Program, said in October 2009: "In dealing with the aftermath of the elections, the Iranian authorities are continuing to commit violation after violation after violation of fundamental human rights. They are trying to muzzle their own people and cow them into silence." [14]
  • In 2008, Iran executed seven juvenile offenders. Iran is the only country to have formally executed youths this year (November 2008). According to a report issued by Human Rights Watch, "Iran leads all countries of the world in executing juvenile offenders, accounting for more than 80 percent of such executions during the past three and a half years. At least 130 juvenile offenders are on death row in Iran." [15]
  • Amnesty International says that in 2007 the number of executions "rose sharply". In its "2008 Report", AI stated that 335 people were executed, although the true figure is believed to be higher. In its "2007 Report", AI reported that 244 people have been killed; however the organization also believes that the true number might have been significantly higher as well. [16] In July 2008, 29 men were hanged on a single day; however the authorities announced the names of only 10 of them. Human Rights Watch together with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran released a report in September 2008 that stated that "the number of executions has nearly quadrupled under Ahmadinejad's presidency" and that there has been an "almost 300-percent increase" between 2005 and 2007. [17]
  • In July, 2007, Ja'far Kiani was stoned to death for being convicted of adultery more than a decade ago [18], despite an order from the head of the Judiciary granting a temporary stay of execution. At least nine women and two men remained at risk of stoning. [19] In January 2008, AI demanded the end to Iran's "grotesque and horrific" stoning executions. Article 204 of Iran's penal code "dictates that the stones are large enough to cause pain, but no so large as to kill the victim immediately." Iranian authorities deny that stoning is still carried out as death penalty. [20]
  • The AI report said: "Women suffer disproportionately. They are not treated equally before the law and courts... and they are particularly vulnerable to unfair trials because they are more likely than men to be illiterate and therefore to sign confessions to crimes they did not commit." [21]
  • At least eight people had their fingers or hand amputated after conviction of theft, AI reports. [22] In June 2008, Ahmad Batebi, a leader of the Iranian Student Movement and an activist for human rights in Iran, said: "torture, human rights violations, and abuses towards women still are prevalent in Iran." Having spent more than nine years in jail, Batebi was witness to physical and mental abuse of prisoners inside Iran. [23]
  • Security and Intelligence services routinely detain activists and dissidents for interrogations. These arbitrary detentions, without charges, can last for months. In 2007, three Iranian Americans spent four months in detention under interrogation. Human Rights Watch in a report from September 2008 said that there are three Iranians with academic ties to US institutions were held and being interrogated. [24]

Freedom of expression and speech

  • Iranian authorities have ordered foreign journalists should not leave their offices to cover the protests which have taken place after the presidential elections. The IRGC and the police have announced that they will move against any "illegal" rally taking place in Tehran. [25]
  • In a ranking issued by Reporters Without Borders, Iran dropped to number 172 out of 175 countries within the press freedom index. "Automatic prior censorship, state surveillance of journalists, mistreatment, journalists forced to flee the country, illegal arrests and imprisonment - such is the state of press freedom this year in Iran," said Reporters Without Borders. [26]
  • Following the presidential elections, Iran is witnessing restrictions on the use of communications technology, including telecommunications, satellite broadcast and internet access. [27]
  • In its report, AI stated that Iranian authorities "maintained tight restrictions on internet access." AI further reported that journalists, academics and bloggers were detained and sentenced to prison or flogging and several publications were closed down. [28] Also in its annual report, Reporters Without Borders stated that Iran "remained the Middle East's biggest prison for journalists." [29]
  • Iranian authorities were especially restrictive on coverage of women's right issues, anti-government demonstrations, the ailing economy and the development of nuclear technology. Numerous laws restrict press freedom, like the 2000 Press Law, which forbids the publication of ideas that are contrary to Islamic principles. Under Article 513 of the penal code, offenses deemed to be an "insult to religion" can be punished by death or by prison. [30]
  • According to Reporters Without Borders, more than fifty journalists were prosecuted or imprisoned in 2007. [31] The institution further said that in November 2007 the Supreme Court confirmed a death sentence on freelance journalist Adnan Hassanpour - accused for "undermining national security", "spying" and being a mohareb (fighter against God) - was probably arrested because of his ties with journalists working for the American funded radio stations Radio Farda and Voice of America. [32]

Freedom of Religion

  • Iran's ethnic minorities, such as Arabs, Azerbijanis, Baluchis and Kurds, who are campaigning for recognition of their cultural and political rights, are being repressed. [33] Amnesty International reports that Iranian authorities continue to harass and persecute Baha'is and members of other religious minorities. [34]
  • The Iranian government has created a threatening atmosphere for all religions but the Shia Muslims. Government imprisonment, harassment, intimidation and discrimination based on religious beliefs continue. [35]
  • In September 2008, the Iranian parliament voted for a draft bill called "Islamic Penal Code", which "would codify the death penalty for any male Iranian who leaves his Islamic faith. Women would get life imprisonment." The majority voted in favor of this new law: 196 votes for, seven against. [36] Shortly after the draft bill on apostasy, the EU issued a declaration to Iran "unveiling their concerns over the deterioration of religious freedom." The EU statement also expressed distress over the arrests of members of religious minorities: "The European Union is deeply disturbed by the arrests [...] of Iranian converts to Christianity and members of the Baha'i community. It calls for their immediate and unconditional release and the cessation of all forms of violence and discrimination against them." [37]
  • On May 11, 2008, the house of Mojataba Hussein, a Christian convert, was raided by Iranian authorities. He was arrested and remains behind bars. His family has no information concerning his incarceration or condition and requests for a visit by his family have been denied. [38]
  • Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Iran has ratified, says: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief." [39]

References

[1] "UN: Hold Ahmadinejad Accountable for Iran Rights Crisis," Human Rights Watch, September 17, 2008, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2008/09/17/un-hold-ahmadinejad-accountable-iran-rights-crisis

[2] http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/pdfid/4af44a8d0.pdf

[3] Slackman, Michael: "Iran's Death Penalty Is Seen as a Political Tactic," The New York Times, November 22, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/23/world/middleeast/23iran.html

[4] "Iran: Amnesty International Condemns New Wave of Executions," Iran Press Service, October 19, 2007, http://www.iran-press-service.com/ips/articles-2007/october-2007/iran-amnesty-international-condemns-new-wave-of-ex.shtml

[5] Slackman, Michael: "Iran's Death Penalty Is Seen as a Political Tactic," The New York Times, November 22, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/23/world/middleeast/23iran.html

[6] "Middle East and North Africa: Amnesty International Report 2009," Amnesty International, December 2009, http://thereport.amnesty.org/en/regions/middle-east-north-africa

[7] "Campaign Report on Human Rights in Iran since 12 June 2009," International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, September 21, 2009, http://www.iranhumanrights.org/2009/09/report09/

[8] Slackman, Michael: "Iran's Death Penalty Is Seen as a Political Tactic," The New York Times, November 22, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/23/world/middleeast/23iran.html

[9] Beaumont, Peter: "Iran defiant as three more given death penalty over election protests," The Guardian, October 11, 2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/oct/11/iran-defiant-over-death-penalties

[10] "Iran: Iran Detainees Describe Beatings, Pressure to Confess," Human Rights Watch, July 8, 209, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/07/08/iran-detainees-describe-beatings-pressure-confess

[11] Fathi, Nazila: "Authorities in Iran Arrest 18 Students," The New York Times, October 2, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/03/world/asia/03iran.html

[12] Fathi, Nazila: "Mothers Arrested Before Opposition Rally in Iran," The New York Times, December 6, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/07/world/middleeast/07iran.html

[13] "Iran: Stop Covering Up Sexual Assaults in Prison," Human Rights Watch, November 6, 2009, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/06/09/iran-stop-covering-sexual-assaults-prison

[14] "Iran: Criminalising Freedom of Expression," Amnesty International, October 29, 2009, http://www.amnesty.org/en/for-media/press-releases/iran-criminalising-freedom-expression-20091029

[15] "Iran Hangs Seventh Juvenile Offender This Year," Human Rights Watch, November 4, 2008, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2008/11/04/iran-hangs-seventh-juvenile-offender-year

[16] "Iran: Amnesty International Condemns New Wave of Executions," Iran Press Service, October 19, 2007, http://www.iran-press-service.com/ips/articles-2007/october-2007/iran-amnesty-international-condemns-new-wave-of-ex.shtml

[17] "UN: Hold Ahmadinejad Accountable for Iran Rights Crisis," Human Rights Watch, September 17, 2008, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2008/09/17/un-hold-ahmadinejad-accountable-iran-rights-crisis

[18] "Iran 'adulterer' stoned to death," BBC Online, July 10, 2007, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6288156.stm

[19] "Iran: Amnesty International Condemns New Wave of Executions," Iran Press Service, October 19, 2007, http://www.iran-press-service.com/ips/articles-2007/october-2007/iran-amnesty-international-condemns-new-wave-of-ex.shtml

[20] Black, Ian: "Amnesty demands Iran ends 'grotesque' stoning executions," The Guardian, January 15, 2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jan/15/iran

[21] Ibid.

[22] Amnesty International Report 2008: http://thereport.amnesty.org/eng/regions/middle-east-and-north-africa/iran

[23] "Iranian Student Movement Activist Describes Prison Torture and Abuse," Voice of America, June 30, 2008, http://www.voanews.com/english/About/2008-06-30-voa83.cfm

[24] "Iran: Rights Crisis Escalates," Human Rights Watch/International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, September 2008, http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/iran0908web.pdf

[25] "Rafsanjani urges ‚freedom' in Iran," AlJazeera, December 6, 2009, http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/12/
2009126101815957736.html

[26] "U.S. press freedom improves; Israel, Iran worse: survey," Reuters, October 20, 2009, http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE59J4XD20091020

[27] "Iran Post-Election Protests 2009," Amnesty International, http://www.amnestyusa.org/all-countries/iran/iran-post-election-protests-2009/page.do?id=1641048

[28] Amnesty International Report 2008: http://thereport.amnesty.org/eng/regions/middle-east-and-north-africa/iran

[29] "Iran - Annual report 2008," Reporters Without Borders, http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=25431

[30] "Freedom of the Press 2008," UNHCR Refworld, April 29, 2008, http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,,FREEHOU,,IRN,,4871f60c18,0.html

[31] Ibid.

[32] "Iran - Annual report 2008," Reporters Without Borders, http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=25431

[33] Amnesty International Report 2008: http://thereport.amnesty.org/eng/regions/middle-east-and-north-africa/iran

[34] "Middle East and North Africa: Amnesty International Report 2009," Amnesty International, December 2009, http://thereport.amnesty.org/en/regions/middle-east-north-africa

[35] "International Religious Freedom Report 2009," U.S. State Government, October 26, 2009, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2009/127347.htm

[36] Palmer, Alasdair: "Hanged for being a Christian in Iran," The Telegraph, October 11, 2008, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/3179465/Hanged-for-being-a-Christian-in-Iran.html

[37] "EU urges Iran to release Christian converts from detention," Christian Telegraph, October 1, 2008,
http://www.christiantelegraph.com/issue3275.html

[38] "Christians Arrested in Iran," Voice of America, June 7, 2008, http://www.voanews.com/uspolicy/2008-06-09-voa2.cfm

[39] "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights," United Nations, http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html

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