4 October 2013
Human Rights Council
Agenda item 4
Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention
Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran* **
In the present report, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran considers the developments in the situation of human rights since the second interim report of the Special Rapporteur submitted to the General Assembly in October 2012 (A/67/369).
The Special Rapporteur outlines his activities since the renewal by the Human Rights Council of his mandate, examines ongoing issues and presents some of the most recent and pressing developments in the country’s human rights situation. Although not exhaustive, the report provides a picture of the prevailing situation as observed in the preponderance of reports submitted to and examined by the Special Rapporteur. It is envisaged that a number of important issues not covered in the present report will be addressed in future reports to be submitted by the Special Rapporteur to the General Assembly and the Council.
* Late submission.
** The annexes to the present report are circulated as received, in the language of submission only.
I. Introduction ....................................................................................................... 1–10
II. Situation of human rights .................................................................................11–75
A. Free and fair elections ..................................................................................... 11–14
B. Freedom of expression, association and assembly .......................................... 15–18
C. Human rights defenders .................................................................................. 19–21
D. Torture ............................................................................................................ 22–30
E. Executions ...................................................................................................... 31–33
F. Women’s rights ............................................................................................... 34–49
G. Ethnic minorities ............................................................................................. 50–55
H. Religious minorities ........................................................................................ 56–64
I. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community ....................................... 65–67
J. Socioeconomic rights ...................................................................................... 68–75
III. Conclusions and recommendations ..............................................................76–79
I. Additional reports of human rights violations in the Islamic Republic of Iran
II. Journalists currently imprisoned in the Islamic Republic of
III. Bahá’ís currently imprisoned in the Islamic Republic of Iran as at 3 January 2013
IV. Christians currently imprisoned in the Islamic Republic of Iran
1. In the view of the Special Rapporteur, widespread, systemic and systematic violations of human rights continue in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Reports conveyed by non-governmental organizations, human rights defenders and individuals concerning violations of their human rights or the rights of others continue to depict a situation in which civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights are undermined and violated in law and in practice. Moreover, a lack of Government investigation and redress generally fosters a culture of impunity, further weakening the impact of the human rights instruments that the State has ratified.
2. The Special Rapporteur continues to seek the cooperation of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran in order to engage in a constructive dialogue and to be able to assess fully the allegations of human rights violations. He regrets to report that he it has not been able to establish a more cooperative and consultative relationship with the Government. He communicated his desire to visit the Islamic Republic of Iran in order to engage in dialogue and to investigate further the veracity of allegations of human rights violations, most recently on 9 May 2012. The Government remains, however, reticent on this engagement and his request.
3. In 2012, the Special Rapporteur also collaborated with a number of other special procedures mandate holders of the Human Rights Council in transmitting three allegation letters, 25 urgent appeals and seven joint press statements. In addition to the communications, he wrote to the Government on two separate occasions to express his concern about the ongoing house arrest of opposition leaders and on the restrictions placed on women’s access to education.
4. The Special Rapporteur is grateful for the vast number of reports submitted by non-governmental organizations and human rights defenders through interviews with primary sources located inside and outside the country. In this regard, 409 interviews have been conducted since the beginning of his mandate, 169 of which were conducted from September to December 2012 and submitted for the present report.
5. Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur draws attention to two cases of reprisal that were reported in the media in November and December 2012, in accordance with Human Rights Council resolution 12/2, in which the Council called on representatives and mechanisms to continue to report on allegations of intimidation or reprisal. In one case, three Afghan nationals, Mohammad Nour-Zehi, Abdolwahab Ansari and Massoum Ali Zehi, were reportedly tortured and threatened with hanging for having allegedly submitted a list of executed Afghans to the Special Rapporteur.1
6. According to other reports, five Kurdish prisoners (Ahmad Tamouee, Yousef Kakeh Meimi, Jahangir Badouzadeh, Ali Ahmad Soleiman and Mostafa Ali Ahmad) in Orumiyeh Prison have been charged with “contacting the office of the Special Rapporteur”, “reporting prison news to human rights organizations”, “spreading propaganda against the system inside prison” and “contacting Nawroz TV”.2 The prisoners were reportedly detained in solitary confinement for two months, interrogated about their contact with the Special Rapporteur and tortured in order to about a confession thereon.
2 See International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, “Five Kurdish Political Prisoners Face New Charges”, 20 December 2012 (available from www.iranhumanrights.org/2012/12/kurdish_prisoners/); and Persianbanoo, “3 Kurdish Political Prisoners to be Tried on Changes of Contact with UN Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaeed”, 15 December 2012 (available from http://persianbanoo.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/3-kurdish-political-prisoners-to-be-tried-on-charges-of-contact-with-un-special-rapporteur-ahmed-shaeed/). See also http://hra-news.org/1389-01-27-05-27-21/14413-1.html.
7. The Special Rapporteur is alarmed at the above-mentioned reports and joins the Human Rights Council in condemning all acts of intimidation or reprisal against individuals that cooperate with the human rights instruments.3 He wishes to emphasize the right of individuals to cooperate with the human rights mechanisms of the United Nations, and underscores the fact that such cooperation is integral to the ability of those mechanisms to fulfil their mandates.
8. The Special Rapporteur takes note of the general observations made by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran on the present report,4 appreciates its engagement in those observations, and continues to hope for direct engagement, as such observations should not preclude cooperation. In its comments, the Government primarily expresses its concern at (a) the Special Rapporteur’s working methodology; (b) the credibility of his sources of information; (c) his assertions about the Government’s cooperation with human rights mechanisms; and (d) his conclusions that allegations of violations of human rights reported to him demonstrated a need for government investigation and remedy.
9. The Special Rapporteur has outlined his methodology on several occasions, and asserts the highest standards of both rigour and consistency in its application at all times. He notes that evidence and testimonies submitted to him were assessed for compliance with the non-judicial evidentiary standards required of his mandate, that sources were cited appropriately and copiously, whenever possible, that only allegations that were cross-verified and consistently levelled by various sources were presented, and that his findings were in full compliance with the protocols stipulated by the United Nations system. The names of sources were omitted whenever requested, as required by the Special Rapporteur’s code of conduct.
10. Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur has referenced periodic reports recently submitted to the treaty bodies by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran throughout his report, but maintains that participation in or pledges made in those reports cannot in any way be a substitute for actions taken to concretely addressing and rectifying concerns raised by the human rights instruments. The Special Rapporteur also continues to underscore the fact that, despite the State’s standing invitation, several requests to visit the country remain outstanding, and that no visit has been granted to any special procedures since 2005.
II. Situation of human rights
A. Free and fair elections
11. The Special Rapporteur recalls general comment No. 25 of the Human Rights Committee, in which the Committee stated that article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recognized and protected the right of every citizen to take part in the conduct of public affairs, the right to vote and to be elected and the right to have access to public service.5 This right should be enjoyed and ensured without unreasonable restrictions. Any conditions on this right must be “based on objective and reasonable criteria” without distinction of any kind, including race, gender, religion, and political or other opinion.6 The Special Rapporteur is concerned that significant and unreasonable limitations placed on the right of Iranian citizens to stand for presidential office undermine their right to “participate in the conduct of public affairs through freely chosen representatives” who “are accountable through the electoral process for their exercise of that power”.7
3 Human Rights Council resolution 12/2, para. 2.
4 See A/HRC/22/56/Add.1.
5 CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.7, para 1.
12. The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported that, under its Constitution, candidates for the office of President must be “political religious men” and faithful believers in the “foundation of the Islamic Republic of Iran and official religion of the country”.8 Women are therefore excluded from the Presidency; indeed, no female candidate has been approved by the Guardian Council in the 34 years of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Constitution also deprives citizens who hold political opinions contrary to those of the Islamic Republic of Iran and to the country’s official religion of the right to stand for President. The Human Rights Committee clearly stated that “political opinion may not be used as a ground to deprive any person of the right to stand for election”.9
13. On 11 February 2013, the Special Rapporteur joined the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of assembly and association in a statement urging the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to immediately and unconditionally release the 2009 presidential candidates Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, his wife Zahra Rahnavard, and hundreds of other prisoners of conscience who remain in prison for exercising peacefully their rights to freedom of opinion and expression or freedom of association and assembly during protests following the presidential election in 2009. The special procedures mandate holders underscored the fact that the two opposition leaders had not been charged with a crime since their arrest, and that, in an opinion adopted by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in August 2012, the Working Group had confirmed that Mr. Mousavi and Mr. Karroubi were subject to arbitrary detention by the Government, contrary to article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.10 In the case of Mr. Mousavi and Mr. Karroubi, it was reported that the Iranian Chief Prosecutor had suggested that the opposition leaders repent and make full restitution for transgressions against the Government and State if they were to participate in the presidential election to be held in 2013.11
14. The Special Rapporteur is further concerned at the fact that the Government has not established an independent electoral authority, in compliance with general comment No. 25, “to supervise the electoral process and to ensure that it is conducted fairly, impartially and in accordance with established laws which are compatible with the Covenant”.12 He also has concerns with regard to the availability of information and materials on voting in minority languages in the Islamic Republic of Iran.13 Lastly, the Special Rapporteur recalls, more broadly, that freedom of expression, assembly and association “are essential conditions for the effective exercise of the right to vote, and must be fully protected”.14 Reports of statements by Iranian officials issuing warnings against those citizens who call for a free election”” and suggesting that these calls are conspiratorial and inimical to the Iranian State or the principle of velayat madari (obedience to the Supreme Leader)15 undermine the full enjoyment of article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which requires the free communication of information and ideas about public and political issues between citizens, candidates and elected representatives.
6 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, arts. 2 (1) and 25; ibid., paras. 4, 6 and 17.
7 CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.7, para. 7.
8 CCPR/C/IRN/3, para. 885. Constitution, art. 115; ibid., para. 15.
9 CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.7, para. 17.
11 See www.bbc.co.uk/persian/iran/2013/01/130117_ka_ejei_mosavi_karobi.shtml.
12 CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.7, para. 20.
13 Ibid., para. 7.
14 Ibid., para 12.
B. Freedom of expression, association and assembly
15. The Special Rapporteur remains concerned at the continued arrest, detention and prosecution of dozens of journalists and Internet users under the provisions of the 1986 Press Law, which contains 17 categories of “impermissible” content. On 4 February 2013, the Special Rapporteur, together with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called on the Islamic Republic of Iran to immediately halt the recent spate of arrests of journalists and to release those already detained, following the arrest of at least 17 journalists, the majority of whom work for independent news outlets.16 The mandate holders underscored their fear that the 17 arrests made were part of a broader campaign to crack down on independent journalists and media outlets, accused of having collaborated with “anti-revolutionary” foreign media outlets and human rights organizations.
16. Prior to the above-mentioned arrests, 45 journalists were already detained in the Islamic Republic of Iran.17 All five journalists interviewed for the present report about their arrest and prosecution maintained that they had not faced public trial by jury, as would be required by the Press Law. Two journalists reported that they had been arbitrarily detained without charge and without ever facing a trial; one was allegedly detained for several months and eventually released with a verbal warning, while the other was reportedly detained for three years, without charge or trial, then finally released on bail. Two female journalists also reported serious sexual harassment endured while in detention.
17. Mehdi Khazali began serving a 14-year sentence for criticizing the Government on his free-lance Internet blog in October 2012. Alireza Roshan, a reporter for the reformist publication Shargh began serving a one-year prison sentence in November 2012. Zhila Bani-Yaghoub, editor of the website of the Iranian Women’s Club, began serving a one-year term on charges of “propaganda against the system” and “insulting the President”, while her husband, journalist Bahman Ahmadi Amouee, is currently serving a five-year sentence on “anti-State charges”.18
18. The Special Rapporteur is also concerned at reports of harassment of family members of journalists who live and work abroad. In a public statement, 104 journalists called for an end to the harassment and intimidation of their family members aimed at putting pressure on journalists to discontinue their work with such news agencies as BBC Persian, Vof America and Radio Farda. One journalist interviewed for the present report maintained that two of her family members had had their passports confiscated, and that the family had been threatened with the seizure of their property if the journalist persisted with her work (see annex I, paragraphs 15 to 17).
16 “UN experts call on Iran to stop journalist arrests and release those detained”, press release, available from www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=12967&LangID=E.
17 See Committee to Protect Journalists, 2012 prison census, available from http://cpj.org/imprisoned/2012.php.
C. Human rights defenders
19. Interviews suggest that human rights defenders continue to be subjected to harassment, arrest, interrogation and torture and are frequently charged with vaguely defined national security crimes. A preponderant number of human rights defenders interviewed for the present report maintained that they had been arrested without a warrant and subjected to physical and psychological duress during interrogations aimed at securing a signed (and televised) confession. A majority of the interviewees reported that they had been kept in solitary confinement for periods ranging from one day to almost a year, were denied access to legal counsel of their choice, subjected to unfair trials or, in some cases, subjected to severe physical torture, rape (both of males and females, by both male and female officials), electric shock, hanging by the hands or arms and/or forced body contortion.
20. The Special Rapporteur continues to share the concerns of the International Bar Association with regard to the erosion of the independence of the legal profession and the Bar Association in the Islamic Republic of Iran.19 Legislative action such as the approval of the Bill of Formal Attorneyship, which increases Government supervision over the Iranian Bar Association, is a case in point. The Special Rapporteur is also further concerned at article 187 of the Law of the Third Economic, Social and Cultural Development Plan, which led to the establishment of a parallel body of lawyers known as “legal advisers to the judiciary”. While the law has seemingly increased the number of legal professionals in the country partly through a simpler licensing process, the judiciary ultimately controls the licensing process of all above-mentioned legal advisers. The Special Rapporteur also received reports about the revocation of the licenses of legal advisers after they represented prisoners of conscience.
21. Furthermore, the Law on Conditions for Obtaining an Attorney’s License allows Bar members to elect members of their Board of Directors, but requires the Supreme Disciplinary Court for Judges, a body under the judiciary’s authority, to confer with the Ministry of Intelligence, the Revolutionary Court and the police to vet potential candidates for its Board. Some Iranian lawyers reported that, in practice, candidates who represented human rights defenders had been prohibited from seeking Board membership as a result.
22. The Special Rapporteur expressed concern at reports of the widespread use of torture in his report submitted to the General Assembly.20 He reported that 78 per cent of individuals who reported violations of their due process rights also stated that they had been beaten during interrogations for the purpose of soliciting confessions, that their reports of torture and ill-treatment were ignored by judicial authorities and that their coerced confessions were used against them, despite these complaints.
23. In response to the above-mentioned report, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran stated that the allegations of torture used in the country were baseless, since State laws forbid the use of torture and the use of evidence solicited under duress. The Special
Rapporteur nonetheless continues to maintain that the existence of these legal safeguards does not in itself invalidate allegations of torture, and does not remove the obligation to investigate thoroughly such allegations. He also emphasizes that widespread impunity and allegations of the use of confessions solicited under duress as evidence continues to contribute to the prevalence of torture.
19 International Bar Association, “Iran: IBA concern over access to justice and independence of the legal profession”, 11 October 2007 (available from www.ibanet.org/Article/Detail.aspx?ArticleUid=8281ffa3-1ce7-4976-a93d-e488cc0fa333).
24. On 15 November 2012, the Special Rapporteur joined the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in calling on the Government to investigate the death of Iranian blogger Sattar Beheshti.21 Mr. Beheshti was reportedly arrested by the Iranian Cyber Police Unit on 30 October 2012 on charges of “actions against national security on social networks and Facebook”. His family was reportedly summoned to collect his body seven days later. During an interview for the present report, one source informed the Special Rapporteur that Mr. Beheshti had been tortured for the purpose of retrieving his Facebook user name and password, repeatedly threatened with death during his interrogation, and beaten in the face and torso with a baton. The source also stated that Mr. Beheshti had reported chest pain to other prisoners and that authorities were made aware of his complaints, but no action was taken. A domestic report released in January 2013 by the Majles’ National Security and Foreign Policy Commission criticized the Tehran Cyber Crimes Police Unit for holding Mr. Beheshti in its own (unrecognized) detention centre, but fell short of alleging direct wrongdoing in his death or of calling for an investigation into the apparent widespread maintenance of illegal detention centres operated by branches of intelligence services, in contravention of Iranian law.22
25. The Special Rapporteur is also troubled by media reports that the memorial service for Mr. Beheshti was subject to a raid by security agents, who beat and arrested members of Mr. Beheshti’s family and a number of attendees. It was also reported that five security officers beat and dragged Mr. Beheshti’s elderly mother by her hair, and that his brother, Asghar, was also arrested and detained for two hours.23
26. According to other reports, in late October 2012, the home of Jamil Sowaidi was raided and he was detained by plainclothes officers claiming to be members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Frequent attempts by Mr. Sowaidi’s family to enquire about his whereabouts were reportedly rebuffed by authorities. On 6 November, authorities reportedly confirmed that Mr. Sowaidi had died in custody and advised his family not to pursue the case. The family’s request for an autopsy was reportedly denied, and Mr. Sowaidi was buried on 8 November 2012. The Special Rapporteur strongly urges the Government to conduct a comprehensive and transparent investigation into Mr. Sowaidi’s death, and encourages it to take measures to remedy the matter, in accordance with international standards.24
21 See “Iran: UN experts call for an independent and impartial investigation into the death in custody of a blogger”, OHCHR, 15 November 2012. Available from www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=12792&LangID=E.
23 See http://hra-news.org/1389-01-27-05-27-51/14403-1.html; and “Sattar Behesti’s 40th Day Passing Memorial Services Raided, His Mother Beaten and Injured”, Persianbanoo, 13 December 2013 (available from http://persianbanoo.wordpress.com/2012/12/13/sattar-beheshtis-40th-day-passing-memorial-services-raided-his-mother-beaten-and-injured/).
24 “Ahwazi Arab political activist Jamil Sowaidi reportedly tortured to death in custody”, Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, 9 November 2012. Available from www.iranhrdc.org/english/news/inside-iran/1000000206-ahwazi-arab-political-activist-jamil-sowaidi-reportedly-tortured-to-death-in-custody.html#.UN0sr6UTszU.
27. Of the 169 interviews conducted for the present report, 81 cases of reported detention were examined for allegations of torture. It was found that approximately 76 per cent of interviewees reported allegations of torture; 56 per cent reported physical torture, including rape and sexual abuse; and 71 per cent reported psychological torture. In an effort to investigate further the methods of torture reported by interviewees, the Special Rapporteur examined a study on the Islamic Republic of Iran by one of the world’s largest torture treatment centres, Freedom from Torture, which investigates and forensically documents evidence of torture in accordance with the standards of the Manual on Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the Istanbul Protocol).25 Data collected was both quantitative and qualitative, detailing the history of detention, specific torture disclosures and the forensic documentation of the physical and psychological consequences of torture.26 The medical/legal evidence presented in the study appears to be consistent with a substantial number of statements submitted to the Special Rapporteur in which allegations of torture were reported.
28. The above-mentioned study examined 50 of some 5,000 documented cases of torture reported by Iranians to the Freedom from Torture centre since 1985. Twenty-nine of the individuals whose cases were examined for the study were detained in 2009, 14 in 2010 and seven in 2011. Fifty-six per cent of the cases were detained only once in the period 2009-2011, while 44 per cent were detained more than once and up to three times before leaving the Islamic Republic of Iran.
29. The study concluded that methods of physical torture described in the 50 cases included blunt force trauma (see table 1),27 including beating, whipping and assault (100 per cent of cases), finding that:
the main forms of blunt force trauma consisted of repeated and sustained assault by kicking, punching, slapping and of beatings with a variety of blunt instruments including truncheons, cables, whips, batons, plastic pipes, metal bars, gun butts, belts and handcuffs. People reported being assaulted or beaten on all parts of the body, though most commonly on the head and face, arms and legs and back. Most were blindfolded while beaten and many were restrained, meaning they were unable to defend or protect themselves.
25 See “We will make you regret everything”: Torture in Iran since the 2009 election, Freedom from Torture Country Reporting Programme, March 2013. Available from http://www.freedomfromtorture.org/sites/default/files/documents/iran%20report_A4%20-%20FINAL%20web.pdf.
27 Unless indicated otherwise, the information contained in the tables featured in the present report was provided by Freedom from Torture.
30. The study further found the following methods of torture prevalence among the cases reviewed (see table 2 below):
- Sexual torture, including rape, molestation, violence to genitals and penetration with an instrument (60 per cent of cases)
- Suspension and stress positions (64 per cent)
- Use of water (32 per cent)
- Sharp force trauma, including use of blades, needles and fingernails (18%)
- Burns (12 per cent)
- Electric shock (10 per cent)
- Asphyxiation (10 per cent)
- Pharmacological or chemical torture (8 per cent).
Of the cases sampled, 60 per cent of females and 23 per cent of males reported rape.
31. The Special Rapporteur continues to be alarmed by the escalating rate of executions (see table 3 below), especially in the absence of fair trial standards, and the application of capital punishment for offences that do not meet the standards of “most serious crimes” according to international law (such as alcohol consumption, adultery and drug-trafficking). It was reported that some 297 executions were officially announced by the Government, and that approximately 200 “secret executions” were acknowledged by family members, prison officials and/or members of the judiciary, making a likely total of between 489 and 497 executions in 2012.28
32. It was reported that at least 58 public executions have been carried out in 2013. The Special Rapporteur joins the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in condemning the use of public executions, despite a circular issued in January 2008 by the head of the judiciary that banned public executions. He also joins the Secretary-General in his view that “executions in public add to the already cruel, inhuman and degrading nature of the death penalty and can only have a dehumanizing effect on the victim and a brutalizing effect on those who witness the execution.”29 The Special Rapporteur also remains concerned that provisions in the new Penal Code, while not yet adopted, seem to broaden the scope of crimes punishable by death.
33. On 22 October 2012, Saeed Sedighi, a Tehran-based shop owner, was executed along with nine others on drug-trafficking charges,30 despite the calls made on 12 October 2012 by three special procedures mandate holders to halt the executions.31 The Government has yet to respond to due process-related queries, including to allegations that Mr. Sedighi was not permitted adequate access to a lawyer or allowed to defend himself during his trial. These rights are guaranteed by article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, articles 32 and 34 to 39 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, as well as by the Law on Respecting Legitimate Freedoms and Citizenship Rights (2004), which determines criminal procedure and defines fair trial standards.
29 See “Iran: UN Human Rights chief concerned about recent spate of executions”, OHCHR, 2 February 2011. Available from www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10698&LangID=E.
30 See “UN Special Rapporteurs outraged with recent executions in Iran”, OHCHR, 23 October 2013. Available from www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=12688&LangID=E.
31 “Iran: UN Special Rapporteurs call for the immediate halt of executions, including eleven scheduled for tomorrow”, OHCHR, 12 October 2012. Available from www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=12656&LangID=E.
F. Women’s rights
34. Reported statistics show that, in the past 30 years, the Islamic Republic of Iran has made remarkable advances in literacy, access to education for women, and women’s health. Literacy and primary school enrolment rates for women and girls are estimated at more than 99 per cent and 100 per cent respectively, and gender disparity in secondary and tertiary education is reportedly almost non-existent.32 Statistics also indicate that women benefit from improved access to primary health care. The maternal mortality rate is estimated at 24.6 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, and skilled attendance during delivery is 94.5 per cent, figures that put the country “on track” with regard to attaining the Millennium Development Goal on improving maternal health.33
35. Moreover, the country’s fifth National Development Plan calls for “focusing on the needs and the creation of constructive opportunities for women and youth”. The Plan also refers to principles of equal pay for women and the expansion of social support for “ensuring equal opportunities for men and women and empowerment of women through access to suitable job opportunities”.34 Several programmes aimed at advancing these goals have reportedly been developed, including a scheme to generate “at home” employment for women. The Chairman of the Health and Treatment Commission of Parliament (Majlis) also recently announced the extension of maternity leave from six months to nine months, together with two weeks of mandatory leave for fathers.35
36. Gender-based disparities in economic participation and political empowerment remain, however, problematic (see table 4 below), and some recent developments threaten to reverse the above-mentioned achievements in education.36 These include unsuccessful (to date) legislative attempts to strengthen polygamy and to reduce work hours for women, as well as current policy proposals that discriminate against women in education and further limit their civil rights.
32 United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Iran: MENA Gender Equality Profile: Status of Girls and Women in the Middle East and North, October 2011 (available from www.unicef.org/gender/files/Iran-Gender-Eqaulity-Profile-2011.pdf), p. 3.
33 E/C.12/IRN/2, para. 257.9.
34 Ibid., paras. 36.8-36.10.
36 See Ricardo Hausmann, Laura D. Tyson and Saadia Zahidi, The Global Gender Gap Report 2012, World Economic Forum. Available from www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GenderGap_Report_2012.pdf.
37 See www.weforum.org/reports.
1. International obligations
37. In 1993, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights noted that the obligation of the Islamic Republic of Iran to ensure equal opportunity for women warranted particular attention, especially in relation to the right to work, family-related rights and the right to education.38 In 2006, the authorities partially agreed to the implementation of recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences following her visit to the country. This included the agreement to reform discriminatory provisions in the country’s penal and civil laws, especially with regard to women’s equal rights in marriage and access to justice. In February 2010, the Government also received and accepted eight of the 13 recommendations relating to women’s rights during the universal periodic review.39
38. In its second periodic report to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to be reviewed by the Committee at its fiftieth session,40 the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran discussed its programme to revise “existing rules and regulations” with a view to advancing women’s participation, raising public awareness about their “qualifications” and enhancing their skills.41 The Government also maintained that women’s affairs had received “special attention in the economic, social, cultural and political development plans of the country” commensurate with its view that “men and women equally enjoy the protection of the law, and enjoy all human, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, in conformity with Islamic criteria”.42 In qualifying its position, Government representatives have asserted that, “men and women are equal in human dignity and human rights; this is not to be confused with equating men and women’s role in family, society and in the development process”.43
39. The above viewpoint is further elaborated in the Charter on Women’s Rights and Responsibilities, adopted by the State adopted in 2004. According to the preamble thereto, the Charter was developed in accordance with the view that “there are various traditions and perspectives regarding women’s rights based on their different cultures”. The Charter, therefore, specifies the rights that the Government believes belong to both genders, and emphasizes the rights that it deems to be specific to women based on their “physical and psychological” differences.
40. In the light of the above, the Special Rapporteur joins the statement made by the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights in her latest report, in which asserted that, while the tendency to view culture as an impediment to women’s rights is both over simplistic and problematic, many practices and norms that discriminate against women are justified by reference to culture, religion and tradition.44 In this respect, the Special Rapporteur maintains that the above-mentioned emphasis on gender roles places limitations on the obligation of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to protect women’s full enjoyment of their civil, political, social, cultural and economic rights. He believes that this view arbitrarily qualifies the degree to which women may enjoy these rights as that which the
38 E/C.12/1993/7, para. 8.
41 Ibid., para. 25.
42 Ibid., paras. 25 and 27.
43 Intervention by Eshagh Al-Habib, Ambassador and Deputy Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations, on behalf of Maryam Mojtahedzadeh, Adviser to the President and Head of the Center for Women and Family Affairs, during the general discussion held by the Commission on the Status of Women at its fifty-sixth session, 28 February 2012. Available from www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/csw56/general-discussions/member-states/Iran.pdf
44 A/67/287, para. 3.
Government perceives to be in conformity with Islamic criteria. The Special Rapporteur further maintains that this particular argument undermines the notion of universal rights, and compromises the rights protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights for virtually half of the country’s population.
2. Socioeconomic rights
41. The achievements made by Iranian women in the field of education has not yet been matched in their current economic status. Statistics demonstrate that a significant gender disparity persists in their participation in the labour market; furthermore, women still occupy only a small percentage of senior managerial positions. According to UNICEF, only 32 per cent of Iranian women are actively engaged in the labour market, compared with 73 per cent of men and 52 per cent of women in the global labour force.45
42. The Special Rapporteur is of the view that certain legal limitations placed on women’s employment, coupled with recent revisions of laws that affect their socioeconomic rights, severely weaken the Government’s ability to promote gender equality and to make progress on the recommendations made by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights46 and at the fourth session of the universal periodic review.47 These limitations include article 1117 of the Civil Code, which affords men the right to prohibit their wives from engaging in work outside the home if they can prove that the work is incompatible with the family’s interests. Furthermore, members of the Majlis recently reportedly proposed four articles that require women to be married in order to become members of a university scientific committee or to be employed at the Ministry of Education and Training. The speaker of the Parliament Social Commission reported that the preconditions had not yet been approved.48
43. In June 2012, the Ministry of Science and Technology announced that women sitting for the national entrance exam would be prohibited from enrolling in 77 fields of study at 36 public universities across the country.49 It was also reported that women’s enrolment in hundreds of courses offered during the 2012-2013 academic year at Iranian public universities was substantially restricted, including in courses on petroleum engineering, data management, communications, emergency medical technology, mechanical engineering, law, political sciences, policing, social sciences and religious studies.50 Furthermore, policies to enforce gender segregation provide “single-gendered” university majors for alternating semesters in lieu of entirely banning access to either male or female candidates.51 In response to criticism from parliamentarians who called for an explanation, the Minister for Science and Higher Education responded that 90 per cent of degrees still remained open to both sexes, that single-sex courses were needed to create "balance” and that some fields “were are not very suitable for women”. In the light of the international obligations of the Islamic Republic of Iran under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and its Constitution, the Special Rapporteur urges the Government to review policies that could be discriminatory and set back the progress that the State has achieved in the area of women’s education.
45 UNICEF Gender Equality Profile (see footnote 32), p. 4.
50 ”Iran: Ensure Equal Access to Higher Education”, Human Rights Watch, 22 September 2012 (available from www.hrw.org/news/2012/09/22/iran-ensure-equal-access-higher-education); www.mehrnews.com/fa/newsdetail.aspx?NewsID=1666033.
3. Right to freedom of movement
44. A married woman cannot obtain a passport or leave the country without her husband’s written permission. In November 2012, the Chairperson of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission of the Majlis announced an amendment to the country’s passport laws that would require unmarried women under the age of 40 and males under the age of 18 to obtain the consent of a guardian or the ruling of a sharia judge in order to acquire a passport.52 Although the amendment was ultimately rejected, the Commission reportedly announced further amendments to the passport bill, which would continue to allow single women over the age of 18 years to obtain a passport without the above-mentioned permission, but would require them to obtain permission from their father or guardian on the paternal side in order to leave the country.53
45. In defence of the above-mentioned amendments, the Chairperson of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission reportedly stated that the Government frequently received requests from single women to travel outside of the country, particularly for the purpose of pilgrimage, and that this had prompted the Government to institute policies that would ensuretheir health and safety.54
4. Civil and political rights
46. According to reports, women’s rights activists continue to be harassed for making statements that criticize policies or government actions; organizational meetings continue to be disbanded; permits for peaceful assemblies are still being denied; and women believed to be associated with entities such as the Mourning Mothers and the One Million Signatures Campaign for Equality continue to face harassment, arrest and detention. Women’s rights advocates are frequently charged with national security crimes and “propaganda against the system”.
47. Activists are also reportedly subject to travel bans and other forms of suppression for protected activities. Women’s rights activist and member of the One Million Signatures Campaign for Equality Maryam Behraman was recently sentenced to an 8-month suspended jail term on the charge of “propaganda against the State”. She was acquitted on charges of having “insulted the leader and founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran”.55 Ms. Behraman was arrested on 11 May 2011 in Shiraz on charges of “acting against national security”, a charge apparently linked to her participation in the fifty-fifth session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March 2011, and detained for 128 days in a detention centre. On 15 September, she was released on $300,000 bail. Ms. Behraman’s lawyer reportedly stated that she was able to read eight volumes of her case file and allowed to take notes, then to submit her defence during the three relatively lengthy court sessions.56
48. A number of Iranian laws continue to discriminate against women. Article 1108 of the Civil Code, for example, requires women to be obedient to their husbands. Women cannot transfer nationality and citizenship to their husbands or children, a situation that has rendered stateless thousands of children of Iranian women who have married Afghani or Iraqi refugees, as well as expatriate Iranian women married to non-Iranians.
49. A dearth of female representation in decision-making roles remains problematic for women’s participation in public life, a right enunciated by article 25 of the International
56 Ibid.; see also http://hra-news.org/263/best/14339-1.html.
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Women are allowed to serve as legal counsellors, for example, but are prohibited from issuing and signing final verdicts.57 No woman has ever been appointed to the Council of Guardians and the Expediency Council. Only nine of the 490 women that reportedly presented their candidatures for the parliamentary elections held in March 2012 were elected, receiving only 3.1 per cent of the 290 seats in the Majlis (although a slight increase from the eight female representatives in the previous Parliament). Prior to the elections, Iranian women’s groups called on the Speaker of the Majlis to improve female representation, citing the “increasing number of professional women, the importance of incorporating the female outlook on issues in decision-making bodies, addressing women’s and family issues, and eliminating legal vacuums” as reasons for their request.58
G. Ethnic minorities
1. Ahwazi Arabs
50. The Special Rapporteur continues to be concerned at reports from members of the Arab community regarding cases of arrest, detention and prosecutions for protected activities that promote social, economic, cultural, linguistic and environmental rights. A majority of interviewees reported that they had been arrested without a warrant and had been ill-treated during detention. They maintained that they had been detained without charge for periods ranging from several days to weeks. Some reported having been psychologically and physically tortured during their interrogation, including by flogging or beatings, and being made to witness executions, threats against family members, and the actual detention of family members for the purpose of implicating others, or to compel others to report to the authorities.
51. One interviewee reported that a cousin, nephew and brother had been arrested in June 2012 for the purpose of coercing their children, currently living abroad, to return to the country. The interviewee maintained that officers from the Ministry of Intelligence had arrested, detained and interrogated the family members about possible foreign contacts on a daily basis for more than two weeks, without any charge. They were reportedly subjected to psychological and physical torture, including by flogging and beating to the point of unconsciousness. The individuals reportedly remain in prison.
52. An informed source reported that Sattar Sayyahi, a poet, died in suspicious circumstances in November 2012 following his release and subsequent threats made by the Ministry of Intelligence. Mr. Sayyahi’s uncle and neighbour were also reportedly arrested, interrogated and tortured by the authorities after they took Mr. Sayyahi to the hospital. The interviewee maintained that Mr. Sayyahi’s uncle and neighbour were questioned about their conversations with him prior to his death. According to other reports, the authorities attacked and arrested an estimated 130 to 140 funeral attendants, including Mr. Sayyahi’s 17-year old cousin, Ali, whose hand was reportedly broken as a result of torture while in detention.
53. Sistan-Balochistan is arguably the most underdeveloped region in the Islamic Republic of Iran, with the country’s highest poverty, infant and child mortality rates and the lowest for life expectancy and literacy. The Balochi are reportedly subjected to systematic social, racial, religious and economic discrimination, and are also severely underrepresented in State bodies. 59 It has also been reported that the linguistic rights of the Balochi are undermined by the systematic rejection of Balochi-language publications, and limitations on the public and private use of their native languages, in contravention of article 15 of the Constitution and article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Moreover, the application of the Gozinesh criterion, which requires State officials and employees to demonstrate allegiance to Islam and to the concept of velayat-e faqih (guardianship of the Islamic jurist) further compounds their socioeconomic predicament by limiting employment opportunities.60
58 “Iranian women call for greater representation in Parliament, Payvand Iran News, 16 January 2012. Available from www.payvand.com/news/12/jan/1167.html.
54. Accounts of the destruction of Sunni mosques and religious schools, and allegations of the imprisonment and assassination of Sunni clerics, have also been reported. Baloch activists have reportedly been subject to arbitrary arrests and torture. The Sistan-Balochistan province experiences a high rate of executions for drug-related offences or crimes deemed to constitute Moharebeh (“enmity against god”) in the absence of fair trials.61 Allegations were also received that the Government used the death penalty as a means to suppress opposition in the province.62 In a plea to the international community, the Balochistan People’s Party reported that two Baloch prisoners in Zahidan Prison had been sentenced to death following a demonstration in Rask City and other towns in Sarbaz in May 2012. Political prisoners in the detention centre who protested against the death sentences were reportedly punished by exile.63
55. Reports were also received that netizen Abdol Basit Rigi and political activists Abdoljalil Rigi and Yahyaa Charizahi had been charged with Moharebeh and sentenced to death following forced confessions. Abdol Basit Rigi had been arrested three years earlier, reportedly kept in solitary confinement for 11 months and tortured. It is furthermore reported that the activists were transferred to solitary confinement in the Ministry for Intelligence two days before their execution, where they were subjected to violent torture and forced to record a televised confession.64
H. Religious minorities
56. The Special Rapporteur remains deeply concerned at the situation of human rights of religious minorities in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Reports from and interviews with members of the Baha’i, Christian and Sunni Muslim communities continue to depict a situation in which adherents of recognized and unrecognized religions face discrimination in law and/or in practice, including various degrees of intimidation, arrest and detention. A number of interviewees stated that they had been repeatedly interrogated about their religious beliefs; a majority of interviewees reported having been charged with national security crimes and/or propaganda against the State for religious activities. Several interviewees declared that they had been psychologically and physically tortured.
59 Iran: submission to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 49th session, Amnesty International. Available from www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cescr/docs/ngos/AI_CESCRWG49_Iran.pdf.
60 See Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, submission to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (available from www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cescr/docs/ngos/UNPO_IranWG49.pdf). and Religious Discrimination and Injustice To Ahlesunnat (Geneva July 22 2012), Nasser Nabatzahi (available from http://www.ostomaan.org/ articles/human-rights/13351).
61 “Iran executions send a chilling message”, Amnesty International, 30 March 2010. Available from www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/iran-executions-send-chilling-message-2010-03-30.
62 “Balochistan: Urgent Appeal to Stop Mass Arrests and Executions”, Unrepresented nations and Peoples Organization, 26 October 2012. Available from www.unpo.org/article/15045.
64 “Iran Executes Three Baluch Political Prisoners”, Balochistan Peoples Party, 23 October 2012. Available from http://eng.balochpeople.org/articles/human-rights/411.
57. In its comments on the report of the Special Rapporteur submitted to the General Assembly (A/67/369), the Government stated that, despite the fact that the Baha’i faith was not a recognized religion in the country, its followers had equal rights under the law and that they could not be prosecuted or imprisoned for adhering to their beliefs. It maintained, however, that propagation of the Baha’i faith was in “breach of existing laws and regulations”, and that activities that constituted its proselytization disrupted public order, and could therefore be limited, in accordance with articles 18 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In its general comment No. 22, however, the Human Rights Committee emphasized that the teaching of religious beliefs was protected and that the practice and teaching of religion or belief included acts integral to the conduct by religious groups of their basic affairs, such as the freedom to establish seminaries or religious schools and the freedom to prepare and distribute religious texts or publications.65
58. Reports were received that 110 Baha’is were currently detained in the Islamic Republic of Iran for having exercised their faith, including two women – Zohreh Nikayin (Tebyanian) and Taraneh Torabi (Ehsani) – who were reportedly nursing infants in prison. It was estimated that 133 Baha’is were currently awaiting a summons to serve their sentences, and that another 268 Bahai’s were awaiting trial. The authorities reportedly arrested at least 59 members from August to November 2012, some of whom have been released. Several sources reported that, since October 2012, authorities had raided the homes of at least 24 Baha’is and arrested 25 people in the city of Gorgon and its surrounding provincial areas, 10 of whom remained in custody at the end of the period under review. It was furthermore reported that Baha’is in the northern city of Semnan had been the focus of escalating and broad persecution over the past three years. Baha’is in Semnan have allegedly faced physical violence, arrests, arson and vandalism to their homes and grave sites. The majority of Baha’i-owned businesses in Semnan and the northern city of Hamadan have reportedly been closed.66
59. Members of the Baha’i community are reportedly still being systematically deprived of a range of social and economic rights, including access to higher education. Informed sources have reported that authorities from three different universities expelled five Baha’i students in November 2012. Four of these students were reportedly offered the possibility of being readmitted if they denied or pledged to abandon their religious practices. The students were reportedly expelled for refusing the offer.
60. In its comments and observations on the report of the Special Rapporteur submitted to the General Assembly (A/67/369), the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran stressed that “recognition of Christianity by the Constitution … does not constitute judicial immunity” for its followers. The Special Rapporteur believes that Christians should not face sanctions for manifesting and practising their faith, and therefore remains concerned that Christians are reportedly being arrested and prosecuted on vaguely-worded national security crimes for exercising their beliefs.
65 CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.4, para. 4.
66 “Inciting Hatred: the Bahá’ís of Semnan. A case study in religious hatred”, Baháí International Community, October 2012. Available from www.bic.org/sites/default/files/pdf/Bahais-of-Semnan-Report.pdf.
61. Sources have reported that at least 13 Protestant Christians are currently held in detention centres across the Islamic Republic of Iran, and that more than 300 Christians have been arrested since June 2010. Those currently in prison include Pastor Behnam Irani and church leader Farshid Fathi, who are both serving six-year sentences on such charges as “acting against national security”, “being in contact with enemy foreign countries” and “religious propaganda”. Sources maintain that the evidence used against Mr. Fathi was related to his church activities, including distributing Persian-language Bibles and coordinating trips for church members to attend religious seminars and conferences outside the country. Several Protestant churches with majority Assyrian- or Armenian-speaking congregations have also been forced to cease Persian-language services; furthermore, it was recently reported that the Janat Abad Assemblies of God Church in Tehran, which held all-Persian services, was shut down on 19 May 2012.67
62. The Special Rapporteur is also concerned that the right of Iranians to choose their faith is increasingly at risk. Christian interviewees consistently reported being targeted by authorities for promoting their faith, participating in informal house churches with majority convert congregations, allowing converts to join their church services and congregations, and/or converting from Islam. A majority of interviewees who identified themselves as converts reported that they had been threatened with criminal charges for apostasy while in custody, and a number of others stated that they had been asked to sign documents pledging to cease their church activities in order to gain release.
63. In interviews and in the information submitted to the Special Rapporteur continue to indicate that Gonabadi Dervishes, who are Shia Muslims, are subjected to attacks in their places of worship, and are arbitrarily arrested, tortured and prosecuted. Sources noted that, as at November 2012, 12 Gonabadi Dervishes remained in official custody, including four lawyers (Farshid Yadollah, Amir Eslami, Omid Behroozi and Mostafa Daneshjoo). Sources also reported that, on 12 December 2012, six Dervishes from the city of Kovar were tried in a revolutionary court in Shiraz, some for the capital offence of Moharebeh.
4. Other faith groups and spiritual practices
64. Representatives of the Yarsan, a religious minority active among Kurdish Iranians, reported that their religious gatherings were routinely repressed. Furthermore, the leader of the Yarsan, Seyyed Nasradin Heydari, is allegedly under house arrest. Yarsan who pass university entrance exams and profess that they practice the Yarsan faith are reportedly refused admission. The Special Rapporteur is also concerned about reports regarding the arrest of leaders of spiritual, semi-spiritual and meditation groups in the Islamic Republic of Iran; for example, sources reported that Peyman Fattahi, leader of the spiritual community of the El-Yasin, was detained for almost three weeks in October and November 2012.
67 “Protestant Church shutdown sparks fears of coming closure spree”, International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, 8 June 2012 (available from www.iranhumanrights.org/2012/06/protestant-church/); “Iranian Church closed down amid government concerns over church growth”, Mohabat News, 13 June 2012 (available from www.mohabatnews.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4756:iranian-church-closed-down-amid-government-concerns-over-church-growth-interview&catid=36:iranian-christians&Itemid=279).
I. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community
65. The Special Rapporteur continues to share the concern of the Human Rights Committee that members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community face harassment, persecution and cruel punishment, and are denied basic human rights. The new draft Islamic Penal Code criminalizes same-sex relations between consenting adults. Articles 232 and 233 of the new Penal Code would mandate a death sentence for the “passive” male involved in sodomy, regardless of whether his role was consensual. Under the new law, “active” Muslim and unmarried males may be subject to 100 lashes as long as they are not engaged in rape. Married and/or non-Muslim males may be subject to capital punishment for the same act. According to the new Penal Code, men involved in non-penetrative same-sex acts or women engaged in same-sex acts would also face 100 lashes.
66. The Special Rapporteur is concerned that criminalizing same-sex relations could lead to the violation of core human rights guarantees, including the right to life, the right to liberty, the right to be free from discrimination and the right to be protected against unreasonable interference with privacy, provided under international human rights instruments, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Special Rapporteur joins the Secretary-General and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in their call for an end to violence and discrimination against all people, irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender identity.68
67. Interviews with 24 members of the Iranian LGBT community for the present report substantiated many of the concluding observations made by the Human Rights Committee.69 Fifteen interviewees stated that they had been arrested at least once for their sexual orientation or for associating with other LGBT persons. Thirteen reported that, in detention, security officers had subjected them to some form of torture or physical abuse, including punching, kicking or baton strikes to the head or body and, in a few cases, sexual assault and rape. Several people reported that they had been coerced into signing a confession. The criminalization of same-sex relations facilitates physical abuse in the domestic setting as well. A majority of these individuals reported that they had been beaten by family members at home but could not report these assaults to the authorities out of fear that they would themselves be charged with a criminal act.
J. Socioeconomic rights
1. Right to education
68. In addition to the limitations put on access to education for women and some religious minorities, reports continue to indicate that students engaged in political activities are being deprived of their education (see table 5 below). In a letter to the Special Rapporteur, an Iranian student organization, Daftar Tahkim Vahdat, reported an increase in punitive action against student organizations, publications and activities in reaction to peaceful efforts aimed at improving academic life and defending student and human rights.
68 See “Born Free and Equal: sexual orientation and gender identity in international human rights law”, OHCHR, 2012. Available from www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/BornFreeAndEqualLowRes.pdf.
69 See CCPR/C/IRN/CO/3, para. 10.
69. Citing statistics based on information gathered from news sources, the Commission maintains that, since March 2005, there have been at least 945 cases of students deprived of continuing education for either one or more semesters, and at least 41 cases of professors expelled from university. Of the 986 reported cases, more than 140 cases applied solely to Allameh Tabataba’i University (14 professors and 57 students), headed by Sadreddin Shariati, and Amirkabir Polytechnic University of Tehran (72 students), headed by Alireza Rahaei. Moreover, three student publications or associations have been forcibly closed.
70. Individuals interviewed for the present report maintained that they had been denied access to universities despite achieving high scores on university entrance examinations for higher degrees, because of their political activities. One top-ranking political science student, for example, reported having been denied entrance to a Masters degree programme until a pledge to abstain from student activism for the duration of studies was signed. The person was later denied access to PhD studies, alleging having been informed that the Ministry of Intelligence had placed that person’s name on a list of students banned from continuing their education.
71. The Special Rapporteur is also concerned at allegations that university professors in the field of humanities continue to be expelled for their views (see table 6 below). The Minister for Science and Technology, Kamran Daneshjoo, reportedly asserted that professors uncommitted to velayat–e faqih (guardianship of the Islamic jurist) or who have a “secular or liberal-democracy point of view” are not needed in the Islamic Republic of Iran.70 One professor reported having been subjected to immense pressure from the head of the university to prove devotion to Islamic values and the Iranian State by demanding that the professor join daily prayers at the university. Refusal to cooperate was reportedly followed by death threats from the Ministry of Intelligence, which informed the professor that refusal to cooperate with the Islamic guidelines of the university would lead to the professor being “expelled, killed and buried in an undisclosed grave”. The professor also reported that 12 colleagues had been expelled or forced into early retirement for alleged non-cooperation with the Islamic guidelines of the university in the past five years.
2. Economic sanctions
72. The Special Rapporteur joins the Secretary-General in reiterating his concern for the potentially negative humanitarian effect of general economic sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran.71 In its general comment No. 8, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights pointed out that the inhabitants of a given country do not forfeit their basic economic, social and cultural rights by virtue of any determination that their leaders have violated norms relating to international peace and security.72 The Committee also stated that the imposition of international sanctions does not in any way nullify or diminish the obligations of a State party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to do its utmost to ensure that every individual, without discrimination, enjoys the rights stipulated by the Covenant and to seek measures to protect vulnerable groups.73
73. Furthermore, the Committee makes clear that imposing sanctions bestows obligations upon the imposing parties to respect the economic and social rights of the sanctioned country’s population.74 Principles introduced in a 1995 non-paper on the humanitarian impact of sanctions submitted to the Security Council by the five Permanent Members thereof called for “unimpeded access to humanitarian aid” within the targeted country and for monitoring the humanitarian effects of sanctions, while a letter addressed to the Council by the Secretary-General urged sanctions regimes to account for human rights and humanitarian standards.75
74. While the Special Rapporteur takes note of the efforts made by parties imposing sanctions, including the “humanitarian exemptions” to exempt foodstuffs, medical supplies and other humanitarian goods from the sanctions, reports of shortages of the drugs used in the treatment of illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, haemophilia and multiple sclerosis give rise to concerns that such exemptions might not always meet their intended purpose.76
In the light of such reports, the Special Rapporteur remains concerned about the efficacy of international safeguards intended to reduce the adverse impact of general sanctions on the Iranian population. He will therefore continue to seek the cooperation of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and that of sanction-imposing countries to report on the effectiveness of humanitarian safeguards. Some reports point to sanctions aimed at the country’s financial sector, which could pose an impediment to conducting transactions for exempted items, despite humanitarian waivers. 77 The Special Rapporteur is also concerned at the severe rise in inflation, increased commodity prices and subsidy cuts, which could also hinder access to essential goods.78 According to certain sources, domestic authorities could take steps to mitigate some of the humanitarian effects of sanctions and better meet obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
72 E/C.12/1997/8, para. 16.
73 Ibid., para. 10.
75 See S/1995/300.
76 See “What the women say: Killing them softly: the stark impact of sancions on the lives of ordinary Iranians”, International Civil Society Action Network, Brief 3: July 2012 (available from http://www.icanpeacework.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/WWS-Iran-Killing-Them-Softly-2013-Edit.pdf; Saeed Kamali Dehghan, “Haemophiliac Iranian boy ‘dies after sanctions disrupt medicine supplies’”, Guardian, 14 November 2012 (available from www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/14/sanctions-stop-medicines-reaching-sick-iranians); Thomas Erdbrink, “Iran Sanctions Take Unexpected Toll on Medical Imports”, New York Times, 2 November 2012 (available from www.nytimes.com/2012/11/03/world/middleeast/iran-sanctions-take-toll-on-medical-imports.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&); and Arshad Mohammed, “Of diapers and drugs, Iran’s trouble paying bills”, Reuters, 20 March 2012 (available from www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/20/us-iran-usa-sanctions-idusbre82j05n20120320).
75. The Special Rapporteur stresses that further investigation into the above issues is necessary, and therefore requests the assistance and cooperation of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran in facilitating an unfettered visit to the country in order to allow an adequate assessment of the humanitarian consequences of sanctions and their impact on the economic and social rights of Iranians. He also appeals to relevant United Nations agencies and sanctions-imposing Governments to aid in the evaluation of the impact of sanctions on the general population.
III. Conclusions and recommendations
76. After reflecting on the past two years of his mandate and the findings in the present report, the Special Rapporteur concludes that there the seriousness of human rights violations in the Islamic Republic of Iran has increased. Frequent and disconcerting reports of punitive State action against various members of civil society, actions that undermine the full enjoyment of human rights by women, religious and ethnic minorities, and retributive State action against individuals suspected of communicating with the mandate holder raise serious concern about the Government’s resolve to promote respect for human rights in the country.
77. The Special Rapporteur continues to be alarmed at the rate of executions in the country, especially for crimes that do not meet serious crimes standards, and especially in the face of allegations of widespread and ongoing torture for the purposes of soliciting confessions from the accused. The Government’s ability to address meaningfully the matters raised by a number of human rights instruments and the Human Rights Council is constrained by a lack of meaningful cooperation, its intransigent position on the existence of human rights violations in the country, and de jure and de facto practices that undermine its international and national human rights obligations.
77 “SWIFT instructed to disconnect sanctioned Iranian banks following EU Council decision”, SWIFT, 15 March 2012. Available from www.swift.com/news/press_releases/SWIFT_disconnect_Iranian_banks.
78www.bbc.co.uk/persian/iran/2012/11/121111_l21_medicine_sanction_health.shtml. See also Joby Warrick and James Ball, “Food prices, inflation rise sharply in Iran”, Washington Post, 4 October 2012 (available from http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-10-04/world/35498613_1_cliff-kupchan-iranian-behavior-price-hikes); “A red line and a reeling rial”, Economist, 6 October 2012 (available from www.economist.com/node/21564229); “IMF forecasts for Iran show limited sanction hit”, Reuters, 9 October 2012 (available from www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/09/us-iran-economy-imf-idUSBRE8980GX20121009); “Iran’s Ahmadinejad sacks only female minister”, Aljazeera, 28 December 2012 (available from www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2012/12/20121227171414934991.html); and www.bbc.co.uk/persian/iran/2012/11/121114_l10_shahriari_health_crisis.shtml.
78. The Special Rapporteur therefore recommends that the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran take the following actions to address the issues raised in the present and previous reports by the mandate holder:
(a) Extend its full cooperation to the mandate holder by engaging in a substantive and constructive dialogue, and by facilitating a visit to the country;
(b) Investigate immediately all allegations of reprisals against individuals who cooperate with international human rights instruments and organizations, and take measures to ensure adequate protection from intimidation or reprisals for individuals and members of groups who seek to cooperate or have cooperated with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights;
(c) Desist from actions aimed at harming or intimidating those who work to identify human rights violations and promote redress, and those who cooperate with international human rights mechanisms;
(d) Consider the immediate and unconditional release of civil society actors and human rights defenders prosecuted for protected activities, including journalists, netizens, lawyers and student, cultural, environmental and political activists who work to promote civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, currently detained for activities protected by national and international law;
(e) Expedite its voluntary commitment to establish a national human rights commission, in accordance with the Paris Principles;
(f) Examine and address those laws that contravene the State’s international obligation to eliminate all forms of discrimination in law and practice, including all laws and policies that undermine gender equality and women’s rights and discriminate against religious and ethnic minorities and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the country;
(g) Consider the immediate release of prisoners of conscience, such as pastors Behnam Irani and Farshid Fathi, and the leaders of the Baha’i community, and fully honour its commitments under article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that guarantee the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, which was accepted by the Islamic Republic of Iran without reservation;
(h) Investigate all allegations of torture, address impunity and end the culture of investigation through confession as reflected by the breadth of reports communicated to the Special Rapporteur;
(i) Consider a moratorium on capital punishment until the effectiveness of judicial safeguards can be meaningfully demonstrated, and stay the executions of individuals who have alleged violations of their right to due process;
(j) Improve transparency on the impact of sanctions and report on measures it has taken to protect its inhabitants from the potential and actual negative impact of such sanctions;
79. The Special Rapporteur also calls on the United Nations system and on sanctions-imposing countries to monitor the impact of sanctions and to take all appropriate steps to ensure that measures, such as humanitarian exemptions, effectively serve their intended purpose of preventing the potentially harmful impact of general economic sanctions on human rights.
[English only] Additional reports of human rights violations in the Islamic Republic of Iran
I. Human rights activists cases
1. Faegh Rourast reported that authorities arrested him and his father in connection with his human rights activities on 27 and 25 January 2009, respectively. He maintained his aunt was assaulted with pepper spray when she inquired about an arrest warrant, and that his father was detained and abused for 16 days. Prison officials reportedly threatened Mr. Rourast’s father with the rape his wife and daughters. Mr. Rourast reported that he was charged with “propaganda against the regime,” organizing protests, and contact with foreign organizations. He reported that he was tortured by prison officials during his 17 days in detention, including by being hung from the ceiling and being severely beaten. Mr. Rourast stated that he was transferred to Shahrchai Detention Center where he remained for 34 days. He maintained that prison officials tortured him with an electroshock weapon and allegedly threatened to amputate his leg, which had been injured during his interrogation. Faegh Rourast reported that he was sentenced to three years in prison and was eventually released after serving a full year. He asserted that he was harassed after his release, that his home was raided in July 2010, and that he was contacted and threatened with arrest again. His family was threatened as well. He has since left Iran.
2. Rozhin Mohammadi, a medical student at Manila Medical School of the Philippines, was arrested on 23 November 2011 after being detained and interrogated several times during a short visit to Iran to see her family. The source reported that Ms. Mohammadi had been involved in student and human rights activities in an effort to address issues such as stoning and executions in the country. The source stated that Ms. Mohammadi was placed in solitary confinement, insulted, interrogated, punched in the face and regularly beaten by one of her interrogators - breaking her nose - and that she did not have access to medical services for her injuries. It was reported that Ms. Mohammadi was asked about her personal relationships and questioned in detail about her sexual relations. It was maintained that Ms. Mohammadi was threatened with rape, with a defamation campaign, and with the arrest of her brother. Ms Mohammadi’s brother, Ramin Mohammadi, was reportedly arrested on 30 November in his home. He was allegedly blindfolded and beaten during his arrest, and threatened with being framed with a crime of his interrogators’ choosing at the onset of his interrogations. Reportedly unaware that his sister was in an adjacent room, Mr. Mohammadi was allegedly ordered to write a statement that implicated his sister in crimes, and severely beaten by several individuals with batons, damaging his inner ear, and fracturing his shinbone. It was further reported that Mr. Mohammadi was then hung from a ceiling for four hours. It was reported that Mr. Mohammadi’s torture was used to psychologically torture his sister in an effort to encourage her to cooperate with interrogators. He was released on $100,000 bail. On 1 December 2011. Ms. Mohammadi reportedly suffered from a epileptic episode, which the source speculated was as a result of being exposed to Mr. Mohammadi’s torture in the next room. She was reportedly released on $200,000 bail on 6 December 2011. It was alleged that the Mohammadi family was harassed and threatened by authorities in the days following Ms. Mohammadi’s release. The siblings were reportedly summoned to return for interrogation and threatened with rearrest if they did not cooperate. It was reported that the family’s home
was raided in an effort to rearrest Mr. and Ms. Mohammadi. The whereabouts of both individuals are unknown.
3. An informed source stated that security forces arrested Maziar Ebrahimi at his home on 12 June 2012 for murder (“assassination”). It was reported that Maziar’s family’s communications were being monitored, and they were not free to talk about Maziar’s whereabouts. A member of Maziar’s family alleged that Maziar had been framed for a crime. On 6 August, Maziar “confessed” publicly on television. Lawyers are reportedly unable to gain access to Maziar’s case file. It was alleged that Mr. Ebrahimi’s arrest was connected to failed negotiations over a contract for a Press TV project. The source reported that authorities threatened Maziar during negotiations, and that visible signs of torture and abuse, along with significant weight loss, were noticeable during Mr. Ebrahimi’s televised “confession”. The source maintained that Maziar was out of the country when the crime he is accused of took place.
4. Women and children’s rights activist, Mohammad Ghaznavian, reported that he was arrested in February 2010, in the city of Qazvin, by 10 plainclothes security force agents, who reportedly told onlookers that he was a drug trafficker. He was taken to an unknown location and detained in strict solitary confinement for 10 days and then taken to Qazvin prison, where his family posted bail and he was released. He reported, however, that within 30 minutes he was rearrested and transferred back to the general prison. Mr. Ghaznavian stated that he was interrogated and learned that he had been under surveillance for an extended period of time. He reported that he was always blindfolded during interrogations, that he was repeatedly and severely beaten during his interrogations, and that some of his interrogations would last up to 11 hours. He was reportedly instructed to report his whereabouts to security forces upon his eventual release in 2011 and was allegedly threatened with the rape “one of the females closest to him” if he made the conditions of his detention public. Mr. Ghaznavian has since left the country.
5. Family members living abroad reported that Zahra Mansouri was arrested in June 2011, allegedly for her connection to Camp Ashraf (now Camp Liberty) in Iraq. She was reportedly held in solitary confinement for 90 days and was eventually released on bail. During her time in prison she underwent an operation for breast cancer. She was allegedly returned to solitary confinement without first being given adequate recovery time. Ms. Mansouri was released to be hospitalized for intestinal problems and epilepsy, and underwent another surgery on 27 September 2012. She was sentenced to five years in prison, which was eventually reduced to two, due to her health issues. She was also sentenced by Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court on 27 September 2012 for acting against national security, and is currently detained. Her family reported their grave concern over Ms. Mansouri’s inadequate access to requisite medications for her illness, and for her health. 6. Mohammed Yeganeh Tabrizi stated that on 29 December 2009, plainclothes police officers attacked a group of protesters and shot three in the head, including himself. He related that 150 bullet fragments entered his body, including two in the brain, and that the entire left side of his body is now paralyzed. He reportedly remained in the hospital for a month and for 20 of those days he was in a comatose state. He reported that a member of the Intelligence Office and someone from the security police interrogated him on the first day he regained consciousness. He was told to report to the Intelligence Office after he was released from the hospital, where he was later interrogated. During this time, he was repeatedly intimidated and threatened with execution. He alleged that he was pushed off his chair to confirm if he was paralyzed. Security forces also allegedly kicked his wheelchair into the wall. He was eventually released without being charged. When he returned to work, he learned that he had lost his business license and the phone lines at his office had been disconnected; he was also told by authorities that he would never be able to run his company successfully again. Due to these prolonged medical issues and continued persecution, Mr. Tabrizi has since left Iran.
7. An interviewee reported that (s)he was arrested at his/her home in the summer of 2010 by several female and male plainclothes intelligence officers. Authorities reportedly videotaped him/her and his/her family during the arrest. S(he) was reportedly presented with a warrant from the Qom Special Clerics’ court, but was not informed of his/her charges upon request. The interviewee reported that his/her house was searched and property was seized; including books, CDs, documents, and notes. S(he) was blindfolded during transfer to a detention center where interrogations about his/her Facebook friends and alleged connection to a foreign reporter were conducted. S(he) was eventually charged with “acting against national security through email contact with the hypocrite [MEK] grouplet”. The interviewee was reportedly held for weeks in solitary confinement, denied access to a lawyer, denied contact with family until 10 days after arrest, and denied visitors for four months. After four months of detention, s(he) was brought to trial and sentenced to multiple years in prison. In 2012 s(he) was released on furlough and summoned to return to prison. (S)he allegedly still had no access to a lawyer.
8. According to an informed source Gholamreza Khosravi Savajani was arrested at work in Kerman, Iran. Mr. Savajani was severely beaten at the time of arrest, and suffered injuries to his face. Security forces held a gun to the back of his head and told him that they could kill him if he didn’t cooperate. Mr. Savanjani was reportedly taken to the Kerman Intelligence Offices Detention Center, where he was interrogated. The source maintained that s(he) saw signs evidence of torture, including broken teeth and damaged knees. Mr. Savajani was reportedly accused of providing $5,500 and two photographs to Simaye Azadi TV Station (an MEK-affiliated satellite station) and was sentenced to six years in prison. He was then issued a death sentence for this charge. It was reported that officials wanted Mr. Savajani to write a letter condemning the MEK, along with a taped confession, which he refused to do. Mr. Savajani was reportedly only able to see his lawyer when he was in court. The appeal of his 2011 death sentence was denied in April 2012 and the execution sentence remains in place. Several UN Special Rapporteurs have submitted a joint urgent appeal to the Iranian government with regard to this case.
9. Mohammad Pourabdollah was first arrested in 2007 for his activities as a student activist. He was later arrested in early 2009 for additional activities and blogging. He was detained in solitary confinement in Evin Prison. It was reported that he was severely beaten by agents who punched and beat him, which lasted two weeks. He was also allegedly forced to sit naked during his interrogations. He was transferred to Evin Prison’s General Ward 209 after 25 days. It was further reported that one week later he was forced to shave his face, hair, and eyebrows and beaten so badly that he had bruises on his body for two-to-three months thereafter and could hardly walk. He was allowed a visit with his mother, in the presence of a judge, only 32 days after his arrest. He was transferred to Ghezel Hessar Prison soon thereafter. For 27 days he was kept in Ward 3 in an extremely overcrowded cell with violent offenders, who on one occasion killed each other when a fight broke out. Later, in the spring of 2009 he was transferred to Evin Prison, interrogated, kept in solitary confinement, and transferred back to Ghezel Hessar Prison after nine days. In late spring he was taken to court and charged with “membership in enemy group”, “forming enemy organizations”, “propagation against the regime”, and “assembly and collusion with the intention to disrupt national security”. His original sentence was 12 years but in 2010 it was reduced to three years. He was never allowed furlough nor was he granted probation. After prison riots in 2011, he was transferred back to Evin Prison’s General Ward 350, and was released three months before the completion of his sentence.
10. Mehdi Gholizadeh Aghdam reported that in 2009 he witnessed Revolutionary Guards run over a woman with their motorcycles and he was arrested when he intervened to help. He stated that during his arrest he was severely beaten and his back was injured. He was taken to Section 240 and interrogated by five people about his political activity and beaten constantly by one of the interrogators. When his interrogators learned of his particular political affiliation, he was put in solitary confinement for seven days. During questioning, he was told to denounce his membership in a political party. Prison officials threatened to execute other members of his opposition party, and threatened his own execution. They blindfolded him and took him to the basement, where they told him he would be killed and his body returned to his family. They forced him to stand on a chair and they placed a rope around his neck, in a mock execution. He was told that if he confessed and recanted he would survive. When he shouted a campaign slogan instead of a confession, he was given a severe blow to the head and he hit the wall. Three weeks later he was released on bail and was sentenced to six years in prison on “propaganda against the regime”. He has since left Iran.
11. Several sources have reported that authorities arrested four Baha’is - Mr. Missagh Afshar, Mr. Vahed Kholousi, Mr. Navid Khanjani, and Mr. Shayan Vahdati - together with 31 other volunteers while they were distributing humanitarian aid to earthquake victims of the 2012 earthquake in the Eastern Azerbaijan province. Authorities reportedly took the volunteers to a detention center, and then transferred them to Amniyate e-Akhlaghi, a section known to enforce moral behavior and dress. Authorities originally charged the volunteers with “involvement in subversive political activities against the regime, through providing assistance to the earthquake victims”, but this was subsequently changed to “distributing contaminated food”. At least 17 detainees were released within the first 72 hours authorities, including two of the Baha’is, Mr. Missagh Afshar and Mr. Vahed Kholousi; some were required to post bail of $4,000. However, one Baha’i, Mr. Navid Khanjani, an education rights activist, was not released on bail. He was taken to Ward 305 of Evin Prison, and then transferred to Gohardasht prison on 10 September 2012. No information about the status of Mr. Shayan Vahdati is currently known.
12. A children’s rights activist reported his/her arrest in 2012. S(he) was detained while conducting research on the needs of victims of the 2012 earthquake in Azerbaijan in the absence of a warrant, and charged with being in the village without a permit. S(he) was blindfolded and taken to an Intelligence Office. S(he) was verbally charged with “acting and propagating against the state” and “insulting Imam Khomeini”. S(he) was kept in a two-by-one meter solitary cell for over one week and reportedly interrogated for over six hours per day. S(he) stated (s)he had no contact with his/her family during this time. The source currently awaits his/her sentence.
II. Juvenile offender cases
13. In February 2002, Ali Torabi was arrested at 16-years-old for the murder of a fellow classmate during a fight at school. During his detention Mr. Torabi reported that he was denied access to a lawyer and family, and subjected to extreme violence and torture. He reported that he was placed in solitary confinement, flogged, hung from a ceiling, exposed to freezing weather while naked, and that his interrogators would place a portable kerosene stove under his chair and would increase the heat in order to get him to write confessions faster. Mr. Torabi was tried, found guilty, and given the death penalty, despite being a minor at the time of arrest. He was then transferred to a general ward of Rajai Shahr Prison, where he claimed his abuse continued, including beatings and being shocked with electric batons. He was eventually released on bail after being imprisoned for over seven years. He has since left Iran; his final judicial ruling is Qisas for the crime of murder, for which the execution sentence remains in place.
14. Siyamal Taleie was arrested in August 2009 in Shiraz during the 2009 summer protests. He was 17 at the time of arrest, and charged with “assembly and collusion against public order”. He reported that he was pepper sprayed, handcuffed, and taken to Mahfase e-Khalilie (a Ministry of Intelligence office). He maintained that he was beaten while blindfolded. Mr. Taleie claimed that authorities interrogated him for a week about his Dervish background - inquiring if his community had sent him to protest - and that he was never allowed to see a judge, was never informed of his charges, and did not have access to a lawyer. He further reported that he was detained in what he believed was a military prison, and placed in a juvenile ward. He was released on bail after one month, against the deed to his family’s house. A few weeks later, he was informed of his charges of “assembly and collusion against public order”. Mr. Taleie reported that his lawyer was also eventually arrested in July 2010. Mr. Taleie left the country in 2010.
15. Journalist Naeema Dostdaar interviewed for a position with Radio Liberty in Europe. Authorities reportedly searched her home without a warrant, blindfolded her, and took her to Evin Prison, where she was reportedly stripped-searched by a female prison guards, including a cavity search. She alleged being held for one month, during which she was never allowed a change-of-clothes. She reported that she was interrogated about her reasons for traveling earlier that year, about her relationship with foreign media, and about foreign financial support.
16. She was allegedly charges with “relations with foreign media, especially the CIA and Radio Farda, spreading lies [on her blog], and spying”. She reported hearing that up to 70 of her colleagues who had taken part in a round of interviews with Radio Farda in Turkey had also been arrested. She stated that other female prisoners reported being asked personal questions about their relationships and their virginity by prison officials. Ms. Dostdaar was also asked about her relationships with men, which she felt was a form of psychological torture. She reported that her cellmates demonstrated physical signs of torture and abuse. She was eventually released, but informed that she would be under surveillance, and was banned from traveling for a year. She has left the country.
17. Negar Mohamadi is a Voice of America (VoA) reporter working abroad. It was reported that between February and April of 2011, authorities at the Ministry of Intelligence began to question her close relatives. Officers allegedly pressured them to convince the journalist to cease her reporting activities, and they were reportedly told that there “would be consequences [if she didn’t stop working].” Her family also came across a story from a Revolutionary Guard-affiliated site, which falsely stated that Ms. Mohamadi had been sexually harassed at VoA. In February 2012, Ms. Mohamadi’s relative was allegedly detained at the airport and her passport was confiscated until August 2012. Moreover, a female relative was followed home on one occasion and confronted with demands that Ms. Mohamadi resign, and it was reported that authorities repeatedly threatened her family with the confiscation of their passports and with freezing the family’s assets. Some of their passports were seized in June and July 2012 for the “sake of national security”. Due to this pressure, Ms. Mohamadi ceased reporting for the VoA for a short time. There are outstanding travel bans on members of her family.
III. Cases of members of religious minorities
18. Of 30 Baha’is detained in the city of Semnan two are women nursing infant children. On 22 September 2012 Mrs. Zohreh Nikayin (Tebyanian) began serving a sentence of 23 months for “disturbing national security” and “propaganda against the regime”. Mrs. Torabi (Ehsani) also began serving a 2.5 year sentence, reportedly for "setting up and running an illegal organization”. The status of a third mother of an infant child, Mrs. Elham Ruzbehi (Motearefi), sentenced on 25 January 2012 to three years of imprisonment (2.5 years on charges of “collusion and assembly against national security” plus six months for “propaganda against the regime”), remains unknown.
19. Multiple sources reported that authorities raided at least 24 Baha’i homes in the city of Gorgon and the surrounding province, on 17 October 2012 and in the days after, resulting in 25 Baha’i arrests. Authorities also reportedly arrested four Muslims associated with these Baha’i; as of November 2012 all but one of these Muslim detainees was released. As of mid-November 2012 Baha’is arrested in and around Gorgon remained in custody, including: Mr. Farhad Fahandej; Mr. Farahmand Sanaie; Mr. Kamal Kashani; Mr. Shahram Jazbani; Mr. Navid Moallemi; Mr. Behnam Hassani; Mr. Siamak Sadri; Mr. Payam Markazi; Mr. Foad Fahandej; and Mr. Kourosh Ziari. According to one source, the local prosecutor’s office allegedly informed the family members of the detainees that they would be charged under Articles 498, 500, and 508 of the Penal Code, which are, respectively: (1) participating in a group of more than two people inside or outside the country with the intent of disrupting the security of the state; (2) propagating against the regime; and (3) cooperating with an enemy Government.
20. In November 2012, authorities from three different universities expelled five Baha’i students: Mr. Farbod Mohammad Zadeh from Isfahan University; Ms. Saamieh Gholinejad from Behshahr University of Science and Technology; and Ms. Tanin Torabi, Ms. Nava Hamidi, Ms. Mona Ashrafi from Khomeini International University in Qazvin. Gholinejad, Torabi, Hamidi, and Ashrafi were reportedly offered continued admission if they denied their faith. The three from Imam Khomeini International University were asked to sign pledges stating that they would not follow their faith. According to sources, when these students refused, they were made to sign documents declaring they were Baha’i and then were expelled.
21. Seyyed Nasradin Heydari is the current leader of the Yarsan community in Iran, but according to most recent information is under house arrest and cannot travel freely at this time. He had been detained twice before, but popular protests led to his release. He has been under house arrest since his second arrest, and is now only permitted to receive visitors to arbitrate small claims cases within the community, according to a source. The source stated that when authorities in Iran ask the Yarsan about their religious affiliation, they often deny being Yarsan out of fear. He also reported that Yarsan are required to speak Farsi and perform Muslim rites of prayer at school, and that those who refuse are prohibited from receiving education.
22. Authorities arrested seven other active members of the same house church network as Behnam Irani on 12 October 2012, following a raid by members of the security services on a house in the city of Shiraz. The detained Christians included Mohammad (Vahid) Roghangir, Suroush Saraie, Roxana Forughi, Eskandar Rezaie, Bijan Haghighi, Mehdi Ameruni, and Shahin Lahooti. On 18 October 2012, Afsar Bahmani, a middle-aged woman in need of specialist medication due to heart and kidney complications, was detained at around 1PM along with a man named Massoud Rezaie, after responding to the summons. Afsar Bahmani
was released after 24 hours. Bijan Haghighi was released on bail of 100 million rials on 25 October 2012. Roxana Forughi was reportedly released on 1 November 2012.
23. A source close to the case, reported that Iranian authorities have detained Mr. Saeed Abedini. Abedini is a Protestant Christian minister. Abedini was reportedly been arrested several times before 2009 for his house church activities but has claimed while still a Christian has stopped working with house churches in Iran to avoid government scrutiny. Abedini had his passport seized while entering Iran from Georgia in late June 2012. The authorities reportedly told Abedini that he would be summoned to court on September 26th. On that date, Abedini’s home was raided by security agents, who confiscated documents, computers, and other personal items and brought Abedini to Evin Prison. Abedini spent four weeks in solitary confinement in Evin before being transferred to Section 3, Ward 209 of the prison. While in solitary confinement, Abedini’s interrogators allegedly disoriented him with tactics such as sleep deprivation. During his time in Ward 209, Abedini’s interrogators reportedly beat him; he was initially denied access to medical treatment for his injuries but later was allegedly taken for treatment. His family was able to hire a lawyer for his defense in December 2012 and he has since been charged with “acting against national security”. His trial is scheduled for 21 January 2013.
24. A family associate reports that Christian Ali Golchin was arrested by plainclothes police in late April 2010 in connection with his possession and distribution of a substantial number of Farsi-language Bibles. Authorities reportedly beat and blindfolded Golchin during his arrest. The Revolutionary Court of Varamin, Branch 1, charged Golchin with “propagation against the state”, “acting against national security by promoting Christianity”, “solicitation of members for a house church”, and “organizing a house church”. Golchin was allegedly detained in Evin Prison for 87 days, all of which he spent in solitary confinement. In detention, Golchin’s interrogators subjected him to psychological torture in the form of threats of physical violence and of execution. He was released on 25 July 2010 on 200,000,000 tuman bail. On 19 April 2011 Branch 28 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced Golchin to one year in prison. His lawyer was reportedly not allowed to speak during the court session. Golchin appealed this sentence and was acquitted of all charges six months later, but received no documentation to this effect. Golchin continued to experience harassment after his acquittal including multiple summonses and being followed by government agents. He eventually fled the country under this pressure.
IV. Cases of ethnic minority
25. An informed source reported that social and cultural activist Aref Sorkhi was repeatedly threatened by authorities for his activities and was arrested on 9 February 2011 at his home without a warrant by unknown authorities, and was pepper-sprayed at the time of arrest. The authorities then reportedly confiscated his Arabic books, computer, and cell phone. The interviewee maintained that his family was unaware of the place of his detention for a month and that Mr. Sorkhi was only able to contact his family after four months when he was transferred to Karoun Prison. The source stated that Mr. Sorkhi was charged with “establishing anti-state Arabic groups”, “cooperating with Arab countries in the region”, “disturbing public order”, and “participating in the Arab national movement.” The interviewee alleged that Mr. Sorkhi has been tortured, and reported that he remains in detention and has not yet been sentenced.
26. Mr. Hameed was a student studying in Syria and was arrested on 19 June 2008 during a visit to Iran. He reported that he was arrested at the airport by plainclothes security forces and accused of founding an Arab Ahwaz group in Syria, and of being active against the Islamic Republics. After being interrogated he was released, only to be rearrested in July 2008. He was arrested in his home, blindfolded, handcuffed, and taken to the security office of Ahwaz, where he reported being held in solitary confinement until 6 September 2008. After 10 days of being interrogated he was charged with “propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran” and with “contact with the Refagh [Arab Nationalist] Party”. He served two months in detention, during which he was physically assaulted, resulting in a separated retina. He asserted that he did not have adequate access to medical services for his injury. Moreover, Mr. Hameed stated that prison officials demanded he confess to “writing about discrimination against Ahwazi Arabs in an effort to stir up trouble”. He was denied access to a lawyer, and was eventually released on bail.
27. Mohammad Ali Afraza, a Kurdish human rights activist, was arrested in Sanandaj in 2008. He reported that eight security forces arrested him, and beat and verbally abused him. He reported that he was charged with “disrupting social security”, that he was kept solitary confinement for 21 days, and that he was physically and psychologically tortured. He was reportedly blindfolded during interrogations and threatened with execution. He was eventually taken to the court in Sanandaj Prison prison where the conditions were reportedly poor. These conditions allegedly included severe overcrowding, and the widespread, consistent torture of prisoners. Mr. Afraza stated that other prisoners were ordered not to speak to him, which he said was psychologically taxing. He was released on bail after five months, tried two months later, and sentenced to four months in prison, with a five year suspended sentence. He alleged that his trial lasted seven minutes and that he was convicted of “spying for sources outside of the country” and with “propaganda and illegal political organizations”. He was released after his trial, and has since left Iran.
28. An informed source reported thats(he) was part of a student organization that informed Kurdish students about their rights as a minority group in Iran. S(he) was suspended by his/her university’s disciplinary committee for one year for participating in a banned student newspaper. The source reported being summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence 11 times between May and June 2010. During these sessions, (s)he was accused of being a separatist, a spy, and of acting against the Supreme Leader. The source reported being blindfolded, verbally abused, and humiliated during these interrogations. (S)he was charged with “Membership in the Democratic Union of Kurdish Students”, “acting against the regime through propagating falsehoods”, “creating public anxiety and disrupting public order through organizing protest demonstrations”, and “interviewing with foreign media”. (S)he was reportedly sentenced to several months in prison, cash fines, and lashes. His/her prison sentence was revoked upon appeal, and (s)he was able to pay a fine in lieu of flogging. (S)he reported that (s)he was denied access to a lawyer. In 2012, the source reported that (s)he was arrested by the Ministry of Intelligence, that (s) he was physically abused during his/her arrest, detained in solitary confinement for three weeks, and interrogated on six separate occasions. During this time the source was again accused of being a spy and a member of Kurdish political parties. (S)he reported that his/her request for a lawyer was mocked and denied, that (s)he was asked to call other Kurdish activists who have been executed “terrorists” during his/her interrogations, and that (s)he was released on excessive bail after approximately three weeks in detention. (S)he has been banned from attending university and believes that (s)he has been blacklisted from finding work. The source has since left Iran.
V. Student activists cases
29. Ismaeil Jalilvand was a student and social activist who has been arrested four times and was eventually expelled in 2011 for his activities. He was arrested on 4 February 2009, was charged with “acting against national security”, “disturbing public opinion”, “insulting the Supreme Leader and the President”, and “propagation against the State” within 24 hours of his arrest. He maintained that he spent 11 days in solitary confinement, and was interrogated seven-to-eight times, for up to six hours each time, while blindfolded. He was eventually fined and released. There was no trial. Mr. Jalilvand was arrested agin four months later on 20 June 2009. He reported that he was detained by the Ministry of Intelligence for 30 days, that he didn’t have access to a lawyer, was blindfolded during the interrogations, and that he was convicted on charges of “insulting Government officials”, “acting against national security”, “propagation against the Islamic Republic”, “disturbing public opinion, and “insulting the Supreme Leader and the President”. He stated that he was asked to defend himself and that his trial lasted one hour. He is currently released from prison and has left the country.
30. On 10 February 2010 Ali Ajami was arrested by the Ministry of Intelligence for his involvement in the 2009 post-election protests. He spent five days in solitary confinement at a Revolutionary Guard office without access to a lawyer. He was transferred to Evin Prison, where he spent 40 days in solitary confinement and was officially charged with “publicizing false information,” “acting against national security,” “propagation against the state,” and “insulting the Supreme Leader.” At Evin Prison he was repeatedly interrogated about his student publications and online activities for up to eight hours per day, while blindfolded. During these interrogations he was repeatedly beaten and punched, made to stand for long periods of time, and his family threatened. Mr. Ajami reported that in court the judge denied his request for a lawyer and that he was only able to see a lawyer on the day of his hearing. After an appeal he was sentenced to two years in Rajaei Shahr Prison for “propaganda against the state” and “acting against national security.” During his imprisonment he faced extremely poor prison conditions, including severe abuse by prison officials. The deputy director of the prison allegedly hit Mr. Ajami so severely in the ear that it caused bleeding and a torn eardrum. After eventually being released, Mr. Ajami received a letter from the university stating that he was banned from continuing his education.
VI. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Cases
31. An anonymous source reported that he was imprisoned twice for activities related to his sexual orientation. He maintained that in the first instance, a Government agent entrapped him by posing as another gay man on a gay dating website. It was reported that the source was physically abused and strip-searched, that he was detained for several days without contact with family, that he was coerced to sign a document that he had engaged in “Tafkhiz” (non-penetrative sex) with other males, and that he was verbally abused by a judge who sentenced him to 100 “hadd” lashes on his torso and appendages, some of which were reportedly applied. The source was arrested again at an airport with a group of friends after dropping a friend off there. The group of men were charged with “the creation of a prostitution center to facilitate the occurrence of sexually illegal activities” and with “committing sinful acts like cross-dressing, wearing makeup, and lustful kissing”. They were then brought to prison for 12 days, where they were allegedly kept in unsanitary and cramped conditions, and the source was eventually issued a flogging sentence. The sentence was later dropped, and he was released on excessive bail. The source’s parents used their property as collateral for their son’s release. He has since left the country.
32. An interviewee reported that he was beaten by his father and punished by school administrators because of his “effeminate” behavior. He maintained that he suffered from depression as a result of his constant abuse, and could not remain gainfully employed. In 2007 the source attended a party primarily for gay men in his town. He asserted that the party was raided by plainclothes officers, who reportedly forced the attendees to lay down with their hands behind their backs and poured alcohol the officers allegedly brought on them, while stepping on them and beating them with batons and glass bottles. The source maintained that dozens of the attendees were taken to the local Intelligence center, were verbally humiliated, strip-searched, and forced to sleep on the floor of their cells before being transferred to a prison where they spent 4-5 more days. They were allegedly kicked, strip-searched, verbally humiliated, kept in an overcrowded cell, and asked humiliating sexual questions by interrogators there. The source was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for “facilitating and organizing a party in which alcohol is consumed and immoral acts are performed”, despite the source’s claim that there was no alcohol at the party. When the story became public, employers would not hire him, or would fire him when they connected him with the story. The source has since left the country.
33. The witness attended the same party as the previous source. He separately reported that agents raided the party, ordered all attendees to the ground, and stepped on them with boots, while beating some with batons. The source was taken to the same detention facility in handcuffs and a blindfold, and slept on the floor with co-detainees. He was brought before a judge, who insulted him. He received a fine sentence, and was released; he believes he was not detained for as long as the others because he denied knowing that the party was for gay men or being gay himself. He has since left the country.
34. A source reported that a child, teachers corporally punished him for behavior they considered “effeminate”, and his principal called his parents to complain. As a teenager, male children in his neighborhood gang-raped him. He did not call the police because, as he claimed: “I live in a society in which the police do not protect me. On the contrary, the police come after people like me”. As a young adult, the witness was arrested on four occasions by local police in a park known for gay encounters. Each time, they told him to sign a pledge to act “appropriately” before being released. He was arrested by different officers each time, but believes that if he had been tagged as a multiple offender, the consequences would have been more severe. He has since left the country.
35. The witness, a Kurdish F-to-M transgender man, maintained that he was constantly beaten by his father for behavior that his father considered “un-feminine”. He did not go to the police, because “as [someone legally considered a girl], my father could legally do anything he wanted with me”. After one year under de facto house arrest by his father, the witness returned to school, but plainclothes officers detained him one night when he was with his female romantic companion. The officers noticed on his ID that he was legally a female, and brought him to a female prison, where they verbally humiliated him and physically touched and searched his genitals and breasts. He was forced to sign a pledge that he would dress and act “correctly” as a woman as a condition for his release. He has since left the country.
Freedom from Torture – Country Reporting Programme Torture in post-election Iran, 2009–2011
36. Freedom from Torture (formerly known as the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture) is a UK-based human rights organisation and one of the world’s largest torture treatment centres. Since our foundation in 1985, more than 50,000 people have been referred to us for rehabilitation and other forms of care and practical assistance. In 2011 Freedom from Torture provided treatment to more than 1200 clients from around 80 different
countries. Every year our medico-legal report service prepares between 300 and 600 medico-legal reports (MLRs) for use in UK asylum proceedings.
37. Freedom from Torture seeks to protect and promote the rights of torture survivors by drawing on the evidence of torture that has been recorded over almost three decades. In particular, we aim to contribute to international efforts to prevent torture and hold perpetrator states to account through our Country Reporting Programme, based on research into torture patterns for particular countries, using evidence contained in our MLRs.
38. Freedom from Torture’s MLRs are detailed forensic reports documenting physical and psychological consequences of torture. They are prepared by specialist clinicians according to standards set out in the UN Istanbul Protocol’. Each is subject to a detailed clinical and legal review process. While the primary purpose of our MLRs is to assist decision-makers in individual asylum claims – and for these purposes our clinicians act strictly as independent experts – collectively they also represent an invaluable source of evidence of torture that can be used to hold perpetrator states to account.
Freedom from Torture’s history of working with Iranian torture survivors
39. Freedom from Torture has consistently received more referrals for Iranians than for any other nationality. Since our foundation, over 5000 Iranians have been referred to us for clinical services – this represents 10% of the more than 50,000 total referrals we have received. Nearly 30% of Freedom from Torture’s current treatment clients are of Iranian origin and at least 16% of all MLRs we have produced over the past three years have been for Iranian clients.
40. Our Iranian clients, both past and present, together embody and provide evidence of the history of torture perpetrated by the Iranian state from the 1980s to the present day. The MLRs we have produced for Iranians provide substantial and robust evidence of torture in Iran and are the source of data for this snapshot study of torture perpetrated by the Iranian government in the lead up to and following the Presidential election in June 2009. We hope the evidence from this study will be of assistance to the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran in fulfilling his important mandate. This is against the backdrop of presidential elections due in Iran in 2013, during which further human rights abuses are feared by the international community.
Case sample and methodology
41. The current study is focused on patterns of torture perpetrated in the context of the 2009 Presidential election in Iran and the unrest and repression of dissent which followed. It is based on a systematic review and evaluation of 50 cases, selected according to criteria of detention and torture within the relevant date range (January 2009 onwards) and consent to use anonymised cases for research.
42. Data was collected and recorded systematically from 50 MLRs and included details of the case profile, history of detention, specific torture disclosures and the forensic documentation of the physical and psychological consequences of torture, based on a comprehensive clinical examination and assessment process in accordance with Istanbul Protocol standards. The data collected was both quantitative and qualitative in type and was anonymised and aggregated before being analysed; the findings are presented in summary below.
43. Of the 50 cases included in this study, 40 were male and 10 female. Forty two cases (84%) were between the ages of 18 and 35 and all identified themselves as heterosexual. Twenty one of the 50 cases were resident in Tehran at the time of detention, followed by seven cases in each of three Kurdish provinces and Shiraz city and three cases in each of Esfahan, Karaj and Ahwaz. The 50 cases comprised 32 (64%) ethnic Persians, ten Kurds, four Azeris, three Bakhtiaris and a Lur. Forty cases identified as Muslim. Non-Muslims in the sample included two who identified as Christians (converts in exile), two as Ahl-e Haq, and six professing no religion or specific religious affiliation.
44. Twenty six cases (52%) said they were only politically active from the 2009 election onwards, with another 11 reporting activism or dissent prior to 2009 on issues including ethnic and religious minority rights, freedom of expression and women’s rights. Another 13 (26%) claimed never to have been active or dissentient and were detained primarily on the basis of the activities of family members or others and a political opinion imputed to them. Individuals who were politically active only from the 2009 election onwards reported activities including attending pre-election meetings, supporting opposition candidates, disseminating political materials and attending demonstrations. Individuals claiming a prior history of activism had reported writing blogs, compiling and disseminating materials critical of the government, writing political slogans in public and taking part in informal (illegal) discussion groups, amongst other activities. Four Kurdish individuals reported various forms of Kurdish activism ranging from cultural activism to supporting illegal Kurdish organizations.
Arrest and detention patterns
45. Twenty-nine (58%) of the 50 cases were detained most recently in 2009, 14 in 2010 and seven in 2011.1 While 28 (56%) of all cases were detained only once in 2009-11, others were detained more than once and up to three times before leaving Iran. Some cases also had a history of detention before the events of 2009; 10 had been detained before 2005 and eight had been detained in the period 2005-2009. Some of these cases had suffered repeated detentions during these periods.
Reasons for arrests
46. The majority of cases (27, 54%) were arrested and detained at demonstrations and other protests between 13 June 2009 (the day after the election) and February 2011. Of these cases, many reported being detained arbitrarily when security forces descended upon demonstrators. Others were engaged in more specific activities that might have led to arrest such as: distributing leaflets, assisting others to escape arrest or assault by security forces, assaulting security forces, holding placards, chanting anti-government slogans, wearing green (identified with the opposition) and filming the events. Eight people were arrested for other kinds of activism around the 2009 election and its aftermath and nine because of imputed political opinion and activities of others associated with them, mainly family members. Two cases were detained for imputed religious dissent and four others for non-political offences such as infringement of alcohol laws and behavioral codes.
Detaining authorities and place of detention
47. Eleven of the cases report being detained by the Basij (state militia), ten by Etela’at (state intelligence forces), eight by the police, three by Revolutionary Guards, one by the military, one by the morality forces and 16 by unknown plain clothed agents. In most cases (68%) the state authority that had arrested them and the one that detained and tortured them was thought to be the same. The largest number of cases overall reported being both arrested and detained by Etela’at and the Basij, with a significant number reporting that they were detained by the police (indeed four specific police stations were identified). A small number of other places of detention that were identified (usually on release) included: four prisons (two in or near Tehran), three Etela’at facilities and two Basij bases in various locations around the country. However, 21 people (42%) said that they did not know with certainty which state force they were detained by and the majority (64%) also could not identify the specific place where they were detained, because they were blindfolded en route and/or because it was an unofficial facility and could not be identified.
Due process during arrest and ill treatment en route to detention
48. Of the 50 cases, only four reported being issued with a charge and only one with a warrant at the time of arrest. All 27 people who reported being arrested on a protest or demonstration said that they experienced violence and ill treatment both during arrest and en route to the detention facility. Most described being beaten with batons, sworn at with obscenities and other verbal abuse. Other cases who were arrested from their home or other private address for activities (actual or alleged) connected to the election protests reported similar treatment, with family members being violently treated, subject to threats and verbal abuse and personal property being destroyed or illegally confiscated. Most people (86%), whatever the cause of arrest, reported that they were blindfolded and handcuffed en route to detention; in some cases they were fully hooded and cuffed in stress positions.
49. It should be noted that there is typically a considerable time lag between when a person is detained and when they seek Freedom from Torture’s medico-legal report services in the UK. It is therefore likely that evidence of detention and torture from 2010 onwards will increase as MLRs are completed for Iranian cases referred to Freedom from Torture more recently.
Due process during detention
50. All 50 cases reported being held incommunicado and tortured. The majority (80%) described interrogation that was concurrent with torture episodes (sometimes alternating). Most (74%) reported that they could not see their interrogators as they were kept blindfolded and in the majority of cases interrogation appeared to be focused specifically on forcing a confession to actual or alleged offences. These included attending demonstrations, belonging to or being active in illegal political groups, organising protests and involvement in other dissentient actions. Interrogation also focused on links with or on the activities of others, including family members. Some, particularly those who were or had been resident abroad, were questioned about links with foreign agents and exiled political groups and activists.
51. Nearly half the cases in the study (48%) said they were forced under torture to sign confessions or statements about future activities; all but three of these had not seen the contents of these documents. Six cases reported refusing to sign confessions despite being tortured with the stated intent of forcing them to do so. In most cases individuals reported being given a conditional release following a confession, while some were transferred to prison, pending formal summons to attend court.
52. In most cases no formal charges were made (88%) and there was no access to legal counsel (96%) or a judicial process (88%). Of the 50, only six cases received charges in front of a judge, all following a confession forced under torture. Of these, only two had access to
legal counsel, who had sight of the specific charges. Offences that people reported being accused of during interrogation sessions and formal charges they were threatened with included: ‘waging war against God’ (‘mohareb’), ‘insulting Islam’, ‘insulting the Supreme Leader’, ‘disturbing the peace’, ‘participating in political and student assemblies’, ‘co-operating with anti-revolutionary groups’, ‘having links with the UK and with foreign groups’, ‘propaganda against the regime’ and ‘assaulting an officer’, amongst others. Only five people reported being taken to court and one reported being tried in absentia.
53. Eight cases reported being moved to prison after periods of interrogation and torture, three of whom said torture continued in prison. Two cases were released from prison to psychiatric hospitals and at least six others were also transferred from detention to hospital for treatment. All of these cases were eventually able to secure release or to escape with the intervention of family members.
54. Detention conditions for a significant proportion of cases were extremely poor and in nearly 70% of cases included solitary confinement in a small cell. Half or more cases also reported experiencing unhygienic conditions, poor quality and inadequate food, a hard surface to sleep on with inadequate bedding, no access to natural light and inadequate access to a toilet. The majority of cases received no medical treatment while in detention. Of the eight who were transferred to hospital, three were taken to psychiatric hospitals and the others reported being transferred for treatment following rape and for specialist medical care due to acute injuries to the head, shoulder and knee respectively. Seven others reported access to limited medical treatment in the detention centre, most of whom had injuries arising from sharp force trauma sutured, some without anaesthetic; two of these were also treated for a fracture and a dislocation caused by blunt force trauma. One person reported being treated following rape.
Duration of detention and escape or release
55. More than 70% of the detentions were less than a month and just under half were less than a week in duration. However, a significant number of people were detained for longer, with two cases being detained for more than a year and three cases being detained for 7-12 months. Overall, 57 of the 62 detention episodes in 2009-11 were for six months or less. Eight people were able to secure a conditional release or to escape from detention following transfer to a medical facility and seven cases reported that they escaped from detention rather than being formally released, in most cases with assistance. A further 12 people reported that they were taken blindfolded to unknown locations and released with no explanation, possibly as a result of a bribe, though they reported being unaware of the exact circumstances. Eight people reported that conditional release was granted after the intervention of family members with a variety of bail conditions, including the production of property deeds and money. More than 40% of cases fled Iran within a month and an additional 20% within three months of being released from or escaping their most recent detention (note that in many cases this was not the first period of detention). Most of the individuals left Iran within a year of being released, with a small number remaining in Iran for up to two years and two people remaining for more than two years before eventually being forced to seek protection abroad.
Pattern of torture episodes
56. More than half the cases (58%) said that they were interrogated and tortured in a room different from their detention cell, although some were also beaten, raped and otherwise ill-
treated in their cell. Four people said they were taken to a room specifically for torture where there were hooks and other devices in place for suspension. At least six others said that torture and interrogation occurred in their cell, while for the remainder this information was not recorded.
57. The authorities responsible for interrogation and torture in these cases appeared intent on ensuring that they could not to be identified by, in the majority of cases, keeping people blindfolded or hooded whenever they were out of their cells, with the likely additional intent of increasing their fear, disorientation and suffering. A few reported that their blindfolds were removed for certain episodes of torture or interrogation but on most of these occasions their captors were not identifiable. Only two people reported seeing uniformed personnel in the detention facility, in one case wearing green and in the other, dark blue uniform. Some people described being aware that different perpetrators, usually identified by their voices, were coming and going or were involved in different ways in their torture and interrogation, despite not being able to see them in most cases.
58. In 34% of cases people reported being tortured at least daily and sometimes several times a day in detention, while for 15 cases the frequency of torture was not recorded. Eight people reported being subjected to a limited number of episodes of torture (1-3) during their detention, though the duration of detention was relatively short in these cases. The remaining 10 cases reported no regular pattern and said that they could not predict when they would be taken for torture or interrogation episodes. In these cases the interval appeared to range from successive days, to every few days, to monthly or less, with the frequency reducing over time where the period in detention was lengthy.
Specific forms of torture disclosed
Methods of physical torture
59. Methods of physical torture described by the 50 cases and documented in the MLR included: blunt force trauma including beating, whipping and assault (100% of cases); sexual torture including rape, molestation, violence to genitals and penetration with an instrument (60%); suspension and stress positions (64%); use of water (32%); sharp force trauma including use of blades, needles and fingernails (18%); burns (12%); electric shock (10%); asphyxiation (10%) and pharmacological or chemical torture (8%). Of the cases sampled, 60% of females and 23% of males reported rape.
60. The main forms of blunt force trauma consisted of repeated and sustained assault by kicking, punching, slapping and of beatings with a variety of blunt instruments including truncheons, cables, whips, batons, plastic pipes, metal bars, gun butts, belts and handcuffs. People reported being assaulted or beaten on all parts of the body, though most commonly on the head and face, arms and legs and back. Most were blindfolded while beaten and many were restrained, meaning they were unable to defend or protect themselves.
61. Seven people were burned, some repeatedly and most with heated metal objects but also with lighted cigarettes or caustic substances. All were blindfolded and restrained and described intense pain. Most of the nine people subjected to sharp force trauma were cut with sharp or bladed instruments; two of these were cut during sexual torture, one by the fingernails of the man who raped him and the other by a blade when he attempted to resist assault. Electric shocks were administered in five cases to the genitals, hands and feet, legs, nipples and buttocks, by electrodes or ‘clips’ or some form of ‘baton’. In one case the person was shocked concurrently with sexual torture.
62. Of the 32 cases subjected to positional torture, 16 were suspended by a variety of techniques, including upside down or with wrists bound behind the body, from hooks in the ceiling or bars on the wall. A wide variety of forced or stress positions were also described in
11 cases, apparently designed to humiliate and to produce a powerful psychological response as well as severe physical discomfort and pain. Many described being suspended and restrained in stress positions while being beaten and otherwise tortured, as well as being interrogated. In some cases, restraint appears to have been designed to facilitate the administration of a particular form of torture, such as burning, electric shock, asphyxiation or sexual torture. A small number reported the use of asphyxiation techniques, including the repeated submersion of the head in water or contaminated water containing urine and faeces. One person was ‘water-boarded’ on at least five occasions. Three people were given medication by force, described as mind and mood altering and extremely distressing.
63. Given the high levels of shame and stigma attached to rape and sexual assault for men and for women, significant under-disclosure of sexual torture is highly likely among the cases in this sample. Despite this, 60% of men and women in the sample reported sexual torture including rape, molestation, violence to genitals and penetration with an instrument. Six of the 10 women experienced sexual torture. All were raped in the interrogation room or in their cell or both, all on more than one occasion, some many times and all by two or more people. Disclosure of rape in all cases was extremely problematic and clinicians recorded the intense psychological distress and flashback symptoms experienced by these women in talking about sexual torture. In some cases, disclosure was only possible after extensive counselling and in some the clinician reported being unable to facilitate a full disclosure due to the high risk of re-traumatisation. Four of the six women disclosed that they had also been subjected to sexual humiliation including forced nakedness (with clothing being violently removed), verbal abuse of an extreme sexual nature and molestation. All described being forcibly restrained while the rape and sexual assault was taking place and most were treated with extreme violence; at least four were rendered unconscious.
64. Of the twenty-four men who disclosed sexual torture, nine were subjected to rape and a further five to penetration with instruments. In some cases several perpetrators were present and participating, in the cell or in the interrogation room; all cases were forcibly restrained. Those cases who reported rape and anal penetration described brutal attacks during which they were penetrated, sometimes repeatedly, including with objects such as batons and bottles. Two other cases reported violent assault to their genitals, while a further eight described being sexually molested while being verbally abused and threatened with penetration or rape. In all cases clinicians recorded observing high levels of shame and ongoing psychological distress and significant difficulty in disclosure.
Methods of psychological and environmental torture
65. Psychological and environmental forms of torture, which were highly prevalent in this case sample, included but were not limited to humiliation (40 cases), solitary confinement (34), verbal abuse (32), threat of death (22), threat to family (15), sleep deprivation (12), and mock executions (7).
66. Psychological forms of torture included the extensive and persistent use of humiliation in most cases, particularly verbal abuse and profanities directed towards the individual or members of their family (especially female family members). Being forced to perform humiliating acts (most but not all with a physical element causing pain and physical stress) and enforced nakedness or removal of clothing were also prevalent across the cases, with clinicians widely reporting the strong psychological impact of this treatment.
67. Threats, particularly of further or different forms of torture, of death and of violence to family members, were reported in 76% of cases and used to induce terror and enforce compliance, particularly to force a confession. Five people reported being given false information that their family members had died or were critically ill, or that they had been detained and tortured and had confessed to an alleged offence. Seven cases were subjected to a mock execution, where they believed that the threat of death would be imminently carried
out and the same number reported being forced to witness violence or harm to others in detention, including rape. Many cases (34%) described being exposed to the sounds of others being tortured or in distress in detention. While many cases reported the use of threats as well as torture to induce them to give information about others, in most cases they had no information or refused to give it. Four people said that they were eventually forced to give limited information about or name family members and associates.
68. The most prevalent form of environmental torture was the use of solitary confinement (68% of cases), in small cells, mostly throughout the entire detention. While the duration of solitary confinement was between a week and a month in the majority of cases, some were detained in this condition for several months and at least two cases for more than a year. Twelve people reported that they were prevented from sleeping or that their sleep was deliberately interrupted throughout the detention by guards banging on their cell doors, dousing them in cold water or taking them for interrogation as soon as they fell asleep. Others were kept awake by constant bright light in their cell.
Forensic evidence and psychological impact of torture
Forensic evidence of torture
69. Forty-one of cases (82%) had forensic evidence of physical trauma documented in their MLRs in the form of lesions (including scars) 2 arising from torture in detention in 2009-2011. MLRs for the other nine cases specifically focused on the psychological signs and symptoms of torture and in four cases were prepared by the person’s treating clinician as examination by an independent doctor was not deemed clinically appropriate. Chronic pain symptoms, mostly attributed to blunt force, positional and sexual tortures, were also reported in 48% of cases and nine cases documented fractures resulting from torture as described. Of the 50 cases sampled 17 (34%) had up to five lesions attributed to torture, while 11 cases had significantly more. Four people had a very large number of lesions (more than 20) or groups of numerous individual lesions assessed together in relation to their consistency with common attributed causes of torture. In all cases where a physical examination was conducted and lesions as well as other signs and symptoms of physical trauma were documented, those attributed to torture were clearly differentiated by clinicians and the individuals themselves, from those with a non-torture attribution.
70. The form of torture that produced the largest number of lesions overall was blunt force trauma; more than 60% of cases had some or numerous lesions attributed to this cause. Freedom from Torture clinicians, using Istanbul Protocol guidelines to describe the level of consistency of the physical findings with the attributed cause of torture, found that in 26 cases there were lesions assessed to be ‘diagnostic’, ‘typical’ or ‘highly consistent’ of blunt force trauma as described by the individual (with no other possible cause, few or a few other possible causes). It should be noted that although used in all cases in this sample, blunt force trauma very often does not produce enduring physical evidence, depending on factors including the force of the blow, the part of the body hit, the length of time since infliction, whether the skin was broken and the healing process. It is also routinely observed by clinicians that while individual scars and groups of scars are assessed for their ‘level’ of consistency with the attributed cause in line with the Istanbul Protocol, ‘...Ultimately, it is the overall evaluation of all lesions and not the consistency of each lesion with a particular form of torture that is important in assessing the torture story...”
71. All seven cases that reported being burned had lesions assessed by the clinicians as being ‘diagnostic’, ‘typical’ or ‘highly consistent’ of this form of torture. Similarly most of the sharp force trauma scars were assessed as having this high level of consistency with the ascribed cause of torture. Physical evidence assessed as ‘typical’ or ‘highly consistent’ of positional torture was documented in seven cases and consisted of ligature or shackle scars
and damage to the shoulders or wrists including dislocation, chronic pain and restriction of movement. Ten cases manifested physical symptoms associated with rape and sexual torture including anal bleeding and pain, vaginal bleeding and discharge, pain and swelling in the genitals, lower abdominal pain, pain on passing urine and sexual dysfunction of various kinds.
72. According to available information, 36 cases (72%) had either been referred to or had been medically treated by statutory health care providers for acute and chronic physical symptoms associated with torture in detention. In most cases treatment had occurred in the UK, although a few people had also been treated in Iran immediately on release from detention. Many people were treated for chronic pain symptoms, but others had been referred for acute injuries or symptoms related to these. Most of those who had been raped had either been screened for sexually transmitted diseases or were referred for such screening.
Psychological impact of torture
73. Psychological findings for the 50 cases in this study included 45 people (90%) with symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) related to the history of torture in detention. Of these, 32 (64% overall) had symptoms reaching the diagnostic threshold according to the ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders. In addition, ongoing symptoms of depression directly related to the history of detention and torture were reported by 42 people (84%), of which 27 (54% overall) had symptoms reaching the diagnostic threshold for depression. According to available information, 39 cases (78%) were in treatment for depression and/or PTSD symptoms at the time of the documentation process, receiving medication and/or psychological therapies from statutory health care providers. A total of 11 cases were receiving treatment services from Freedom from Torture during the period when their MLR was being prepared.
74. Signs and symptoms associated with PTSD were reported and observed to a very high level across the sampled cases and included flashbacks (84%) and intrusive memories and thoughts (68%) where traumatic events are repeatedly re-experienced even when the individual is awake and conscious. Recurrent nightmares including elements of the traumatic events in actual or symbolic form and fear and severe anxiety responses to cues that trigger an association with the trauma were reported and/or observed during clinical sessions (94% and 56% respectively). Other typical symptoms included avoidance of thoughts, feelings and activities associated with the trauma, signs of which were observed in half the cases (50%). Some people also reported and demonstrated a marked emotional restriction or dissociation when recalling events related to their torture and a difficulty recalling these events (20%). A marked diminished interest, detachment and social withdrawal was also documented in 62% of cases, while almost all reported that they had difficulties sleeping (96%).
75. Other depressive features of PTSD and depression signs and symptoms documented in these cases included a persistently low mood in most cases (80%), increased fatigue (38%), as well as diminished appetite (60%). Difficulties with concentration and recall and scattered thoughts were also commonly reported and observed (70%), while feelings of worthlessness and guilt and a bleak or pessimistic view of the future were very commonly expressed (56%). Some individuals, particularly those who were raped, expressed a feeling of being irreparably damaged and a sense of their self identity having been permanently altered as a result of the torture, with devastating impact. Particular psychological responses to sexual torture and rape documented in those cases subjected to this included: intense and overwhelming feelings of shame; feelings of anger towards the abuser and/or internalised anger expressed as self hatred; fear and severe anxiety symptoms either generalised or related to those who remind the person of their abuser; avoidance of anything associated with the trauma, including being unable to remember anything or remember details of what occurred or to make a full
disclosure; social withdrawal and difficulty making relationships with others, especially men; sexual dysfunction; suicidal ideation, self harm and suicide attempts.
76. Overall twenty seven people (54%) in this case sample expressed ideas of self harm or of suicide during their assessment process that were directly related to their experiences of detention and torture in Iran and their ongoing symptoms of PTSD and depression arising from this trauma, as well as their experience of seeking protection in the UK in some cases (particularly the fear of removal). Ten people had indeed carried out acts of self harm (20%) and six had made suicide attempts (12%), some in Iran but mostly in the UK following flight. Some individuals had made several attempts and were considered to be at continued risk of suicide at the time of examination.
Overall conclusions on the clinical findings – congruence with attribution of torture
77. In their clinical opinion and concluding observations for the MLRs in the 50 sampled cases, examining clinicians drew together the salient elements of the account of detention and torture and the clinical evidence which may or may not have supported this history. This included: summary of the history and torture methods described; physical findings including lesions and their consistency with the attributed cause of torture, or lack of physical findings with clinical reasons; presence of lesions attributed by the person to other causes (non-torture), demonstrating no attempt to embellish the account; psychological findings, including symptoms of PTSD and depression related or unrelated to the history of detention and torture, with clinical reasons; mode of narration of the history including demeanour and affect, level of detail and consistency of the account or lack of these, with clinical reasons and the possibility of fabrication or embellishment of the account of torture, or of alternative explanation for the clinical evidence. Clinicians in all 50 cases found there to be sufficient physical and/or psychological evidence to support the account given and an overall congruence between the clinical findings and the history of detention and torture in Iran in the given period.