Statement from Javaid Rehman, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran, from side event “A YEAR OF THE WOMAN, LIFE, FREEDOM MOVEMENT: Crackdown on Dissent and the State of Women’s Rights in Iran”. Find our recap of the 54th session of the Human Rights Council for more information.
I’ll begin by thanking colleagues and members of the Civil Society for this invitation for me to speak on this side event. The people of Iran have been facing the worst form of violations of human rights since September of last year.
Ethnic, linguistic, and religious minorities continue to suffer from systematic and systemic persecution, targeting, and harassment. Women and girls of Iran are targeted with the most serious assault on their fundamental human rights and human dignity. These policies are intended to further violate women’s rights and their dignity by attempts to enforce the hijab.
The death in custody of the morality police of Jina Mahsa Amini on 16th of September last year unleashed one of the strongest waves of protests and civil unrest Iran has seen for the past four decades. She was arrested for allegedly failing to comply with Iran’s strict rules on women’s dress by wearing the so-called improper hijab. Her death, unfortunately, remains a tragic reflection of the violence against girls and women of Iran. In her case, there are also clear implications with an ethnic and religious dimension.
However, the law of enforced hijab and the manner of its enforcement by state authorities is emblematic of the violence, brutality, and the violation of fundamental human rights and human dignity of girls and women of the country.
So, I want to focus directly on what has happened since the death in police custody of Jina Mahsa Amini. What about the veiling laws? Have there been any lessons learned from the strategy and indeed the tragedies emerging from the deaths of hundreds of men, women, and children? The short answer to this painful question is no.
Iranian state laws and practices have unfortunately come full circle. The morality police is back on the streets of Iran, harassing, threatening, bullying, and detaining women. The currently proposed legislation by Iranian authorities is reinforcing further oppression against women and girls.
In highlighting my grave concerns, along with some of my special procedures colleagues, we issued a press release on 1st of September, just at the beginning of this month, in which we noted that the proposed law (and I read out from a press release) – we said that the proposed law could be described as a form of gender apartheid, as authorities appear to be governing through systemic discrimination with the intention of suppressing women and girls into total submission.
We also noted, again I quote from my press release, that the weaponization of public morals to deny women and girls their freedom of expression is deeply
.. to Fair trial and due process rights. These summary executions are the symbols of a state ready to use all means to instill fear and to cause protests. I am very concerned that several other individuals currently face charges that carry the death penalty. I am alarmed at the reports of targeting and victimization of ethnic, linguistic, and religious minorities. It was extremely tragic to note that ethnic and religious minorities, who have suffered decades of systemic and systematic discrimination and persecution, have been so disproportionately impacted in the current phase of repression.
There is now an ongoing, continuing repression, harassment, and detention of students, human rights defenders, lawyers, and journalists, and we have seen that increased over the last few months. Family members of individuals that were executed in connection with the protests have been summoned to courts or detained in Iran for seeking justice. Also, in the past month alone, the authorities have detained dozens of Human Rights defenders in what appears to be a concerted effort to caution any protest in advance of the anniversary of the September 2022 death in custody of Jina Mahsa Amini, which subsequently triggered nationwide demonstrations.
A concerning pattern of mistreatment of Human Rights Defenders, journalists, lawyers, and others in custody has also emerged, including force hospitalization in psychiatric centers. Moreover, the troubling practices of imprisoning defenders in remote cities instead of their home cities or towns in order to break their spirit has become increasingly concerning. In the past few months, some human rights defenders who have already endured extensive imprisonment face additional sentences while in prison, mainly for the advocacy of prisoners’ rights, their protests against prison abuses, and expressing dissenting views.
Persistent impunity and the absence of accountability for serious human rights violations, in particularly the failure to hold individuals accountable for gross human rights abuses, have serious consequences for any society. It damages the public trust in state institutions, including constitutional, administrative, legislative institutions, as well as the judicial institutions, which are specifically designed to dispense justice. This failure also represents a major obstruction in realizing or establishing principles of rule of law, democratic governance, and all that is enshrined in our ethos of Human Rights.
Establishing mechanisms of accountability, however, is not straightforward. Efforts to ensure accountability must be cognizant of and inextricably linked to rights, including the rights to truth, right to justice, and ensuring effective remedies for the victims of these violations. Within the Islamic Republic of Iran, all three elements underpinning accountability that I’ve just mentioned have remained non-existent, with a persistent denial of the right to truth and a refusal to allow access to justice. There are no institutional mechanisms of redress or remedies for victims of gross and serious violations of human rights.
I’m extremely concerned at the continuing violations of the right to fair trial because Iran has failed to adhere to due process standards, especially for those detained for exercising their freedom of opinion and expression. I ask, I demand that due process and the right to fair trial must be absolutely ensured and respected. I also call upon the Islamic Republic of Iran to address systematic impunity by establishing a system of accountability in accordance with international law, including constitutional, legislative, and administrative reforms, as well as ensuring the complete independence of the judiciary, and also to ensure effective remedies for the victims of human rights violations.
I thank you, ladies and gentlemen.