[ Reproduced from http://www.state.gov/www/issues/human_rights/1996_hrp_report/iran.html ]

U.S. Department of State

Iran Report on Human Rights Practices for 1996

Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor,January 30, 1997.


*The United States does not have an embassy in Iran. This reportdraws heavily on non-U.S. Government sources.

The Islamic Republic of Iran was established in 1979 after a populistrevolution toppled the monarchy. The Government is dominatedby Shi'a Muslim clergy. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is the Leaderof the Islamic Revolution and functions as the Chief of State. He is also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. PresidentAli Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, first elected in a popular votein 1989 and reelected in 1993, is constitutionally barred froma third term. The Constitution provides for a 270-seat unicameralIslamic Consultative Assembly, or Majles. The Government seeksto ensure that public policy is consistent with its view of politicaland socio-religious values, but some serious differences existwithin the leadership. The authoritarian government maintainsits power through widespread repression and intimidation. Thejudiciary is subject to government and religious influence.

Several agencies share responsibility for internal security, includingthe Ministry of Intelligence and Security, the Ministry of Interior,and the Revolutionary Guards, a military force established afterthe revolution and coequal with the regular military. Paramilitaryvolunteer forces known as Hezbollahis or Basijis conduct vigilanteactions. Both regular and paramilitary security forces commitnumerous and serious human rights abuses.

Iran has a mixed economy. The Government owns the petroleum andutilities industries and the banks. Oil exports are the primarysource of foreign exchange. The economy has not yet recoveredfrom the disruptions of the 1979 revolution and the destructionfrom the Iran-Iraq war. Iran's isolation from international financialmarkets has decreased slightly, but remains a problem. Economicperformance is adversely affected by corruption and governmentmismanagement. Unemployment in 1996 was estimated at 30 percent,and inflation was about 50 percent.

The Government's human rights record remains poor; there was noevidence of significant human rights improvement during the year. Systematic abuses include extrajudicial killings and summaryexecutions; disappearances; widespread use of torture and otherdegrading treatment; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary arrestand detention; lack of fair trials; infringement on citizens'privacy rights; and restriction of the freedoms of speech, press,assembly, association, religion, and movement. The Governmentrepresses political dissidents and the ruling clerics effectivelycontrol the electoral process, thereby denying citizens the rightto change their government. Women face legal and social discrimination,and the Government discriminates against minorities and restrictsimportant worker rights. Although a lively debate on political,economic, and social issues occurred during the parliamentaryelection campaign this year, freedom of expression remained firmlyunder government control and became more severely restricted inthe wake of the parliamentary elections. The Government closedseveral newspapers, disqualified candidates, barred speakers,and intimidated opposition gatherings by encouraging Hezbollahiattacks.

However, the Government did allow the first visit in 5 years ofthe United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) Special Rapporteuron Human Rights in Iran. Canadian Maurice Copithorne, the newlyappointed Special Rapporteur, visited Iran from February 10 to16. The Special Rapporteur heard credible reports of abuses including: Inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment; arbitrary arrests,imprisonments, and executions; unfair judicial practices; anddisregard for freedom of expression and religion. Human RightsWatch (HRW) and the UNHRC Special Rapporteur reported that theGovernment was generally cooperative during their visits, However,the Government continues to deny the universality of human rightsand attempts to discredit critics. For example, in one Iranianpress report, the chief of Evin prison described human rightsinspectors as "sick" people who filed misleading anduntruthful reports. The U.N. Special Rapporteur for ReligiousFreedom and the U.N. Special Rapporteur for the Freedom of Expressionalso traveled to Iran in 1996. In November the UNHRC continuedthe mandate of its Special Rapporteur.


Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, IncludingFreedom from:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Most executions in political trials amount to summary executionsbecause basic procedural safeguards are lacking. In his 1995report, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary,or Arbitrary Executions noted "the persistent allegationsof violations of the right to life in the Islamic Republic ofIran." Although the domestic press stopped reporting mostexecutions as of 1992, executions appear to continue in substantialnumbers. Amnesty International (AI) reported that at least 110persons were executed in 1996, a substantial increase over theprevious year's total of 50 executions. Inhuman punishments areused in some cases, including two cases of stoning (see Section1.c.). Those executed included Mehrdad Kalany, who was executedon June 22 on charges that included "meeting and talking"with Reynaldo Galindo Pohl, the former U.N. Special Representative, and the delegation that accompanied him. Also on June 22, AhmedBakhtiari, a member of the Iranian People's Fedaian Organization(Minority), was executed on charges of participation in a terroristgroup and terrorist operations, as well as other criminal charges. Rahman Radjabi Hamvand, a member of the Kurdish Democratic Partyof Iran, was executed on July 28. The charges against him stemmedfrom a complaint by a private individual that was later withdrawn. AI reported that Hedayatollah Zendehdel and Abolghasem Majd-Abkahiwere believed to have been hanged at the end of the year, after7 years' detention without trial and conviction on mainly politicalcharges.

Exiles and human rights monitors report that many of those executedfor alleged criminal offenses, primarily narcotics charges, wereactually political dissidents. In addition a November 1995 lawcriminalized dissent and applied the death penalty to offensessuch as "attempts against the security of the State, outrageagainst high-ranking Iranian officials, and insults against thememory of Imam Khomeini, and against the Leader of the IslamicRepublic."

The Government continued its repression of the Sunni minority,both inside and outside Iran. On January 28, a 50-year-old Sunnicleric, Molawi Ahamed Sayyad, imprisoned by the Government from1990-95, disappeared at Bandar Abbas airport. His body was foundin a suburb of the city on February 2. Allegedly, six membersof the Revolutionary Guards arrested him at the airport; he isbelieved to have died in their custody. In early March, 46-year-oldMolavi Abdul Malek, a Sunni cleric and Iranian Balouch leader,was reportedly killed by Iranian intelligence operatives in Karachi. Also reported killed in a related incident were Iranian SunniMolavi Abdulmalek, the son of a prominent Iranian Sunni cleric,and Jamshid Zahi, another Iranian Sunni leader.

In December clashes erupted in Bakhtaran at a funeral after mournersaccused the Government of killing Mohammad Rabil, a Sunni prayerleader. Officials said that Rabil died of a heart attack. Itis unclear whether any persons were killed in the rioting.

The Government also continued to kill political opponents abroad. Opposition leaders Zahrah Rajabi and Abdul Ali Moradi were killedin Istanbul by agents of the Government on February 20. In Iraqeight members of the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran were killedby elements of the Revolutionary Guards. The victims were: GhafourMehdizadeh; Ali Amini; and Saddig Abdulahi, who were killedon December 27, 1995 in Koya; Usman Ruyan and Abubaker Rahimi,who were killed on December 30, 1995 in Arbil; Rahman Schabannajadand Ali Abdulah, who were killed on January 2 in Suleimanya; andCheder Mahmudi, who was killed in November 1995 in Suleimanya. In May a former official from the Shah's regime, Reza Masluman,was killed in Paris. The murder is believed to have been orderedby the Government.

Investigations of state-sponsored terrorism abroad continued in1996. For example the trial of Kazem Darabi, an Iranian chargedwith murdering four Iranian Kurdish dissidents in Berlin in 1992allegedly under instructions from the Iranian Government, continuedin Germany. In November the German prosecutor stated that IranianHead of State Ayatollah Khameini and President Rafsanjani wereresponsible for the murders. Iran responded by threatening theGerman embassy in Tehran, the German judiciary, and politicaland economic ties with Germany. In France a French prosecutoraccused Iranian chief of intelligence Ali Fallahian of orderinga killing, and in Germany a warrant was issued for Fallahian'sarrest.

The Government took no action to repudiate the religious ruling(fatwa), or its related bounty, calling for the death of SalmanRushdie and anyone associated with publishing his book, "TheSatanic Verses" (see Section 2.a.).

b. Disappearance

No reliable information is available on the number of disappearances. In the period immediately following arrest, many detainees areheld incommunicado.

In early November, Faraj Sarkuhi, a magazine editor who had beencritical of the Government, disappeared while traveling to Germanywhere his wife and children reside. His wife accused the Governmentof abducting him in Tehran. Sarkuhi reappeared in late Decemberand held a press conference at the Tehran airport where he saidthat he had been in Germany but had not contacted his wife, withwhom he was having problems. The German Government stated thathe had not entered Germany, and the press speculated that theGovernment had forced Sarkuhi to give a false account of his whereabouts.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatmentor Punishment

Credible reports indicate that security forces continue to torturedetainees and prisoners. Common methods include suspension forlong periods in contorted positions, burning with cigarettes,and, most frequently, severe and repeated beatings with cablesor other instruments on the back and on the soles of the feet. A new law entered into force on July 10 that reinforces Islamicpunishments such as flogging, stoning, amputations, and publicexecutions. Two persons were stoned to death, while two otherswere executed after receiving lashes.

Prison conditions are harsh. Some prisoners are held in solitaryconfinement or denied adequate rations or medical care in orderto force confessions. Female prisoners have reportedly been rapedor otherwise tortured while in detention. In the past, prisonguards have intimidated the family members of detainees and havesometimes tortured detainees in their presence. The UNHRC SpecialRapporteur met privately with detainee Abbas Amir Entezam, a formerdeputy minister in the government of Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan. Amir Entezam reported that the conditions in Evin prison improvedafter 1989, but that political prisoners were still housed withviolent criminals and denied regular family visits. Some prisoners,who met with former U.N. Special Representative Galindo Pohl duringhis last visit in 1991, complained of reprisals. Amir Entezamclaimed that he was beaten so extensively that he lost the hearingin his left ear.

The Government does not permit unrestricted to imprisoned dissidentsby human rights monitors. The U.N. Special Rapporteur was notable to see all the dissidents he asked to see.

In September 1994, the International Committee of the Red Cross(ICRC) issued a report on "unresolved humanitarian issues"from the Iran-Iraq war. The ICRC noted that the Government failedto identify combatants killed in action and failed to exchangeinformation on those killed or missing. The report criticizedthe Government for obstructing ICRC efforts to register and repatriateprisoners of war. Throughout 1996 the Governments of Iran andIraq made little progress in resolving the issue of those missingin action.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Although the Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention,there is reportedly no legal time limit on incommunicado detention,nor any judicial means to determine the legality of detention. Suspects may be held for questioning in jails or in local RevolutionaryGuard offices.

The security forces often do not inform family members of a prisoner'swelfare and location. Even if these circumstances are known,the prisoner still may be denied visits by family and legal counsel. In addition, families of executed prisoners do not always receivenotification of the prisoner's death. Those that do receive suchinformation may be forced to pay the Government to retrieve thebody of their relative.

Although the Government claimed to have released Abbas Amir Entezamearly in 1996, he is still detained. Initially arrested in 1979on charges of espionage and condemned to life in prison, he isnow held in a "security house."

Adherents of the Baha'i faith continue to face arbitrary arrestand detention. The Government appears to adhere to a practiceof detaining a small number of Baha'is at any time.

The Government does not use forced exile, but many dissidentsleave Iran because they feel threatened.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The traditional court system is not independent and is subjectto government and religious influence.

Iran has two court systems: The traditional courts, which adjudicatecivil and criminal offenses; and the Islamic Revolutionary Courts,established in 1979 to try political offenses, narcotics crimes,and "crimes against God."

Many aspects of the prerevolution judicial system survive in thecivil and criminal courts. For example defendants have the rightto a public trial, may choose their own lawyer, and have the rightof appeal. Trials are adjudicated by panels of judges. Thereis no jury system. In the absence of postrevolution laws, theGovernment advises judges to base their decisions on Islamic law. These courts are not independent. The Revolutionary Courts mayconsider cases normally in the jurisdiction of the civil and criminalcourts, and also may overturn their decisions. Assignment ofcases to either system of courts appea>

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