Human rights reform must be a central aspect of the new Iranian Government’s agenda, an independent United Nations expert stressed today, highlighting a number of concerns that must be addressed to protect and promote the well-being of the country’s people.
“These reforms must produce concrete and demonstrable changes in the country’s human rights situation,” Ahmed Shaheed, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, said at a news conference at UN Headquarters.
He added that actions by the new Government should address issues in the legal system as a whole as well as in “problematic long-term official practices” that undermine basic rights of freedom of expression, association, assembly and religion, as well as freedom from arbitrary detention and the right to fair trial and the right to life.
“My biggest concern about human rights in Iran is the high rate of executions in the country coupled with the poor fair trial guarantees that victims get,” Mr. Shaheed told the UN News Centre.
According to a report he presented yesterday to the General Assembly committee dealing with human rights issues, some 724 executions took place in the country between January 2012 and June 2013, including a number of public executions. He noted that aspects of the country’s Islamic penal code allow for the application of the death penalty for crimes that do not meet the most serious standards, such as drug offences.
“Because of the nature and scale of the problem, what I am calling for is a moratorium on the death penalty until many of the issues can be addressed,” he said.
Mr. Shaheed, a professor and former foreign minister of the Maldives, said that while the trend he has witnessed since becoming Special Rapporteur is a generally worsening human rights situation in Iran, he has observed “a real difference” in approach by the Iranian authorities.
There have also been “positive” signals and statements by President Hassan Rouhani after he took office that have raised expectations for tangible and sustainable reforms in the country. “There are a lot of positive messages coming out but we are still keen to see sufficient change on the ground,” he stated.
“The broad trend has been one of increasing concern, but now there are signals and noises that tell me that there’s some willingness to address these concerns.”
Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.