Speaking before the United Nations General Assembly in New York on October 26, 2020, Iran’s representative Mohammad Zareian attacked the UN’s latest report on human rights in his country.
“The report on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (A/75/213) has been drafted solely based upon unverified, biased and tendentious sources and is nothing short of politically motivated,” Zareian said.
That statement is misleading.
Prepared by a U.N.-appointed investigative team, the 26-page report dated July 21 contains evidence collected from Iranian government sources, non-governmental watchdog organizations, the media, interviews with victims of alleged human rights abuses and the families and lawyers of those killed by government forces.
The leader of the U.N. team, Javaid Rehman, a special rapporteur on human rights in Iran appointed in July 2018, is a professor of International Human Rights Law and Muslim Constitutionalism at Brunel University in London.
The report provides case-by-case details, including victims’ names and other personal information and the circumstances of their deaths or injuries. It describes the Iranian government’s hindrance of investigations and harassment of the victims and their families.
In its first section, the U.N. report provides information on the crackdown on protests in November 2019, when about 200,000 Iranians took to the streets after the government imposed increased monthly gasoline fees (50% for the first 60 liters and 200% for additional purchases).
According to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, the government forces, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, the police and Basij militia, killed hundreds, while thousands were injured and arrested.
The U.N. report says the Iranian government responded to the protests with “shocking,” “unprecedented use of excessive and lethal force.”
“At least 304 people, including 23 children and 10 women, were killed between 15 to 19 November 2019 in 37 cities across the Islamic Republic of Iran, although the death toll is believed to be much higher,” the report states. Multiple other sources confirm the figures.
“Excessive force by State security forces has led to hundreds of deaths and injuries and thousands of arrests. Detained protesters have faced torture and ill-treatment, with some receiving harsh sentences, including the death penalty, after unfair trials,” the report says.
“While the Government has created a victim compensation scheme and ordered investigations, those processes lack transparency and independence and are failing to hold perpetrators of human rights violations to account. Victims’ families have also reportedly faced harassment by authorities for speaking out.”
Citing Amnesty International, the U.N. report states: “On 16 November, 15-year-old Mohammad Dastankhah was shot dead, while returning from school in Sadra, by Basij forces shooting from their building rooftop. A 17-year-old boy, Mohsen Mohammadpour, also died after suffering head injuries during protests in Khorramshahr. While the reports are conflicting as to whether his injuries were due to beatings or metal pellets fired from close distance, both reports claimed that security forces had been responsible.”
Apart from the 2019 protests, the report alleges systematic human rights violations, including forced disappearances of regime critics, torture and inhumane treatment in detention, and the arrest of minors (at least 1,021 children held in detention), who have also been subjected to torture and cruel treatment.
Confessions are often extracted under torture and sentences are “grossly disproportionate and therefore cruel, inhuman or degrading when imposed on a child,” it said.
The report also cited numerous examples of activists and human rights lawyers or defenders who’ve been imprisoned, including multiple advocates for women’s rights. It condemned continuing executions of child offenders, noting at least four in 2019 and two this year, while another minor was beaten and killed while on death row.
The report noted that the Iranian government partially accepted six recommendations from Rehman, all concerning rights to a fair trial, while others, including those on torture and cruel treatment, have been mostly rejected.
While applauding a decision to temporarily furlough 120,000 prisoners because of the coronavirus pandemic, the report found flaws in practice. Officials, it said, “disproportionately prevented the release of most human rights defenders, lawyers, dual and foreign nationals, conservationists, religious and ethnic minorities and prisoners of conscience imprisoned on national security charges.”
Despite opposing views on the international agreement to slow Iran’s nuclear program, from which U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration withdrew in 2018, both the U.S. and the European Union member states have criticized Iran’s rights record.