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12/10/2023 English, Human Rights Committee, Treaty Bodies

Protected: Recap: Iran & the 139th Session of the Human Rights Committee

The Human Rights Committee issues its Concluding Observations and findings on the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Press release: OHCHR

From 9 October to 3 November 2023, the Human Rights Committee (“Committee”) convened at the Palais Wilson in Geneva, Switzerland for its 139th session. During the session, the Committee reviewed the implementation status of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”) in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Haiti, Kuwait, the United States, Venezuela, and South Korea. The session debuted with the public examination of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s State report in the presence of a delegation of official representatives of Iran. It is the fourth report Iran has presented to the Committee since the State ratified the ICCPR in June 1975.

Background: Iran submitted its State report presenting Iran’s measures to implement the ICCPR to the Committee on 22 Jun 2021, with nearly seven years delay (the original due date was in November 2014). Based on the State’s report and other information supplied to the Committee, including civil society’s submissions [See Impact Iran’s submissions here], the Committee submitted to Iran a “List of Issues” with 27 questions for the State to respond. The List of Issues addresses specific matters regarding the enjoyment of civil and political rights in Iran and seeks additional information concerning key questions, including concerning matters of impunity, non-discrimination, gender equality, the right to life, torture and ill-treatment, freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association, freedom of religion or belief and the rights of minorities. The List of Issues was sent to Iran in November 2022, to which Iran replied in June 2023.

Between the 9th and 10th of October, the Committee met with Iran’s delegation in a public dialogue divided into two half-day meetings (Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning). Before the start of the public session, the Committee heard in a private meeting representatives of civil society organizations that wished to provide further information to inform the Committee’s dialogue with the delegation. Representatives of the Impact Iran Secretariat, as well as Impact Iran Coalition Members, were present and issued oral statements during the meeting. 

The Committee’s public examination began with a presentation of Iran’s report and responses to the List of Issues. H.E. Mr. Reza Najafi, Iran’s Deputy for Legal and International Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who headed the delegation, presented the report. Mr. Nahafi said that Iran was determined to make further progress in implementing the ICCPR. He mentioned the impact of unilateral coercive measures imposed by the United States, which “had adversely affected almost all areas of citizens’ lives.” He emphasized that overcompliance with such sanctions had exacerbated the country’s humanitarian disaster, with the most vulnerable members of society. He also claimed the List of Issues prepared by the Committee contained “judgments” and “preconceptions” without substantiated evidence. 

Committee members then put questions to the representatives, seeking to clarify or deepen their understanding of a number of points raised in the Committee’s List of Issues. These included concerns over the recent Chastity and Hijab Bill:

“The [Bill] to support the family in promoting the culture of Chastity and Hijab passed by parliament impending the review of the guardian council imposes severe punishment on women and girls for non-compliance, which may lead to its violent enforcement. Did the Iranian delegation explain how this bill is compatible with human rights, including the right to take part in cultural life, the prohibition of gender discrimination, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to peaceful protest, and the right to access social, educational, and health services, as well as freedom of movement?”

And investigations into the death of Jina Mahsa Amini:

“On the 16th of September, 2022 the 22-year-old Iranian woman Mahsa Amini died in a hospital in Tehran, Iran. The guidance patrol, the religious morality police of Iran’s government, had arrested her for allegedly not wearing the hijab in accordance with government standards. We know that up to six investigations have been conducted by different institutions. All of them concluded that the death of Masha Amini was due to natural causes. But have these investigations and the results been made available to Masha Amini’s family? Is Masha Amini’s family entitled to ask for an impartial judicial procedure in which they might participate as victims’ relatives?”

The Iranian delegation did not answer the above questions raised by Committee members. A delegation’s representative simply stated: “Considering these manifestations on the use of force against women on the issue of hijab, I have to point out that, based on the report of the fact-finding mission of Iran’s parliament, the file of the late Mahsa Amini has absolutely no relation to the use of force of any kind or any assault or battery at any stage.”

Among many other issues raised, Committee members also requested information on the investigations into past human rights violations, such as the killings, ill-treatment, and reprisals against family members that had taken place in relation to the November 2019 protests and those that began in September 2022, as well as investigations into the threats and attacks against individuals seeking accountability for lost family members following the downing of Ukraine Airlines flight PS752, and the poisoning of around 1,200 schoolgirls between November 2022 and April 2023, 2023, allegedly as a reprisal for schoolgirls engaging in peaceful assemblies following Jina Masha Amini’s death. Similar to other questions highlighting the impunity of Iranian authorities involved in human rights violations, the delegation did not answer the Committee’s questions. 

Committee members also asked whether Iran was considering revising laws that criminalize and punish consensual same-sex relations with death or other severe penalties, which are in direct contradiction with the ICCPR. They requested information on cases of prosecution of human rights defenders who advocate on behalf of sexual or gender minorities, including those that concluded with imposing the death penalty.  The delegation did not engage on the topic and claimed, incorrectly, that the ICCPR does not cover issues relating to sexual orientation.

One Committee member raised the issue of accountability and investigations of Iranian officials allegedly involved in human rights violations:

“This committee is aware that last year, a group of parliamentarians in Iran called for decisive action against peaceful protesters, which was interpreted as calling for the death penalty. One of these parliamentarians was Ms. Zohreh Elahian. She was thereafter placed on the European Union restrictive measures list as responsible for human rights violations, including torture and arbitrary detention. We know she is on the official delegation today. This is perplexing as the state party has a legal obligation to provide accountability for human rights violations. Therefore, could the state party please tell us how it plans to proceed regarding those persons who are subject to international sanctions as they are apparently responsible for human rights violations? In other words, what are the state party’s plans to investigate and punish well-founded human rights violations committed by Iranians who have been placed on the EU sanctions list? ”

Mr. Najafi replied that the allegation leveled against Ms. Elahian was baseless and that she had been the object of a misinformation campaign.

Find video of the session below, via UN Web TV, as well as summary records (via OHCHR), for the 4038th and 4039th meetings.

Concluding Observations

After concluding this dialogue, the Committee drafted detailed written concluding observations, setting out the dialogue results. Concluding observations are consensus comments on positive and negative aspects of a State party’s implementation of the ICCPR, as well as a list of recommendations for the State party to be in line with its legally binding human rights obligations. The Concluding Observations were published on November 3, 2023.

In its Concluding Observations, the Committee raised serious concerns about Iran’s legal provisions that continue to discriminate against women and girls, particularly the “Support the Family by Promoting the Culture of Chastity and Hijab Bill” and about the redeployment of morality police to monitor the dress code in public. The Committee also expressed its deep concerns about the very high number of executions in Iran, “including their considerable increase since 2021,”  notably for offenses eligible for death sentences but do not qualify as “most serious,” such as drug-related offenses and offenses against the State and religion. It also questioned the disproportionate use of the death penalty against members of minorities and the execution of minors. 

The Committee reiterated many of the concerns it had already raised and recommendations it had already issued during Iran’s last periodic review in 2011, given the State’s inaction or, in some cases, active efforts to steer further away from its legally binding obligations under the ICCPR. For instance, the Committee recalled its previous concluding observations and recommendations regarding the right to freedom of religion or belief and Iran’s obligation to ensure that legislation and practices conform to Article 18 of the ICCPR. 

In addition, noting that Iran’s legal framework continued not to afford comprehensive and effective protection against discrimination on all grounds, including gender, religion, political or other opinion, sexual orientation, and gender identity, the Committee recommended the State address and resolve this crucial gap. The Committee also called on Iran “to decriminalize same-sex consensual relations between adults, in particular, to ensure that the death penalty is not imposed for such relations, nor for advocating for the rights of LGBT persons.” 

Still in its Concluding Observations, the Committee stated it was concerned about reports showcasing the continued pattern of excessive use of force carried out by security forces in the context of peaceful assemblies, the imposition of the death penalty against individuals who participated or were involved in protests, including the September 2022 protests, as well as Iran’s legal framework and practices actively limiting freedom of expression including through internet shutdowns and harassment, arbitrary arrest and prosecution of journalists for their reporting.

The Committee also raised concerns “about the continuing credible reports of widespread and systematic practice of torture and ill-treatment of persons deprived of liberty by law enforcement officials and the Revolutionary Guard, in formal and informal detention centres,” including as a method to extract confessions during investigations. The Committee called on Iran to eradicate torture, including by ensuring accountability and implementing existing legislation. 

The Committee highlighted reports demonstrating that Iran’s judiciary is not independent nor impartial and called on Iran to take all measures necessary to safeguard the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, including by ensuring that the procedures for the selection, appointment, promotion, and removal of judges are transparent and impartial. 

Among its total of 77 recommendations to the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Committee identified three issues of particular priority, namely, violence against women, the death penalty, and authorities’ excessive use of force. The Committee requested Iran to provide follow-up information on the measures it will take to implement the Committee’s 11 recommendations related to these three issues by 3 November 2026. These recommendations are: 

On violence against women: 

  • “Adopt a comprehensive law criminalizing all forms of violence against women and girls that explicitly addresses domestic violence, marital rape and crimes committed in the name of so-called “honour” and introduce legislation that protect women and girls from any form of violence; 
  • Amend or repeal laws and policies that criminalize the non-compliance with compulsory veiling, in particular the “Bill to Support the Family by Promoting the Culture of Chastity and Hijab”; and disband the morality police; 
  • Ensure that all cases of violence against women, including domestic violence, are thoroughly investigated, that perpetrators are prosecuted, and, if convicted, punished in accordance with human rights standards, and that victims have access to remedies and means of protection; and 
  • Conduct awareness-raising campaigns regarding violence against women and girls, and about the criminal nature of such acts, and ensure that police officers, prosecutors and judges receive appropriate training.” 

On the death penalty:

  • “Ensure that the death penalty is never imposed in violation of the Covenant, including in violation of fair trial procedures and of the principle of legal certainty in the definition of criminal offences; that legal assistance is always made available, and that evidence obtained under duress and torture is inadmissible in court; and that the family and attorney of the convicted person are kept informed; 
  • Ensure that no person who was below the age of 18 years at the time of the commission of an offence is subjected to death penalty under any circumstance; 
  • Give due consideration to establishing a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to abolishing it and consider acceding to the Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant; and 
  • Collect and make publicly available disaggregated data on the number of death sentences imposed, gender and age of the defendants, the number of executions carried out, pardons and commutations requested and granted and the type of offences for which death sentences are imposed.” 

On excessive use of force:

  • “Ensure that provisions governing the use of force are in line with the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials; the United Nations Human Rights Guidance on Less-Lethal Weapons in Law Enforcement, and the Committee’s general comment No. 36 (2018), which requires that the use of lethal force by law enforcement be resorted to only when strictly necessary in order to protect life or prevent serious injury from an imminent threat; and provide training based on these principles and guidelines; and 
  • Investigate thoroughly, independently and impartially all allegations of excessive use of force and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice, those responsible punished in accordance with human rights standards, and the victims receive reparation; and 
  • Ensure an impartial, independent, prompt and transparent investigation into the death of Jina Mahsa Amini.” 

The State’s report on the measures taken by the Government to address the rest of the Committee’s recommendations is expected by 5 November 2029.

Find the concluding observations in full below:


For a detailed assessment of the Human Rights Committee’s recommendations to the Islamic Republic of Iran from the previous Committee’s reviews, please visit Impact Iran’s IRIX database