COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Item 10 of the provisional agenda
ANY PART OF THE WORLD, WITH PARTICULAR REFERENCE TO COLONIALAND OTHER
DEPENDENT COUNTRIES AND TERRITORIES
Report on the situation of human rights in the IslamicRepublic of Iran,
prepared by the Special Representative on the Commission onHuman Rights,
Mr. Maurice Copithorne, pursuant to Commission resolution1996/84 and
Economic and Social Council decision1996/287
I. THE SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE'S ACTIVITIES ANDSOURCES
II. THE STATUS OF WOMEN
III. LEGAL SUBJECTS
A. The death penalty
B. Political prisoners/prisoners ofConscience
C. Religious dissidents
D. Extrajudicial groups
E. Amendments to the IslamicCriminal Code
F. Other legal matters
IV. FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
V. THE FATWA AGAINST SALMAN RUSHDIE
VI. THE SITUATION OF THE BAHA'IS
VII. OTHER IMPORTANT MATTERS
A. Human rights institutions inIran
B.Violence outside the Islamic Republic of Iran
C. Thesituation of certain religious minorities
1. In his earlier reports to the Commission on Human Rights andthe General Assembly, the Special Representative has noted that hisfunction is to bring the status of human rights in the IslamicRepublic of Iran into clear focus, providing at the same time anindication of areas in which progress is being made and areas inwhich progress is needed. As he had said before, Iran is a complexand dynamic society and, bearing in mind that space constraintsimpose a need to be selective, the Special Representative is facedwith a considerable challenge. In the Special RepresentativeÕsview, there is no doubt that progress is being made in a number ofsectors, but as of yet not in all.
2. The status of women in Iran has been widely and generallycritically discussed. While the legal and practical disabilitiesfaced by women in Iran have been well documented, it is now clearthat some change has been effected in recent years and that there area number of signs that further and substantive improvements may be onthe way. The Special Representative would note particularly thepositive attitude being displayed by some members of the politicalelite, and the considerable public discourse under way.
3. The Special Representative notes that there is in Iran a livelydebate on many public issues, including the freedom of expressionitself. The boundaries of political correctness are being challengedby the media, particularly by journalists and writers. However, inthe Special RepresentativeÕs view, the system is not workingin a way that respects the freedom of expression. In particular, thePress Law jury system and the existing arrangements for the approvalof book and film scripts need to be made less arbitrary.
4. While there does appear to be an atmosphere of change in thelegal system, particularly reflecting the need to articulate legalnorms more clearly, there are a number of other areas which remain tobe addressed, including the application of the death penalty,allegations that there remain some prisoners of conscience in Iranianjails, the treatment of religious dissidents, the rights ofindividuals at the pretrial phase and the public incitement by somepersonages to take extrajudicial action.
5. The Special Representative notes that there has been littleprogress in the matter of the Fatwa against Salman Rushdie. He alsonotes the continuing concern about the situation of theBahaÕis in Iran and of the situation concerning certain otherreligious minorities. He urges the Government to implement theoutstanding recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on religiousintolerance.
6. The Special Representative once again notes the requests of theGovernment of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the High Commissionerfor Human Rights/Centre for Human Rights in Geneva and the CrimePrevention and Criminal Justice Branch in Vienna for technicalassistance. He renews his recommendation that sympatheticconsideration be given to them.
7. Finally, he believes it particularly important that theGovernment, both through its own conduct and through publiceducation, actively embrace the concept of tolerance as a vitalcomponent of humane governance and a credible human rights system.[back to thecontents]
8. In this his second report to the Commission on Human Rights,the Special Representative tries to capture on paper the currentstate of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Given thecomplex nature of Iranian society and in particular, a form ofgovernance that is far from transparent, this is not an easy task,especially from outside the country. Further, he must exerciseselectivity in identifying his areas of focus, given the limitationsimposed on the length of such reports. His decisions in this regard,that is, his priorities, may not be shared by everyone inside oroutside of Iran but they represent his best efforts within theconstraints under which he works.
9. The Special Representative had been in discussion with Iranianofficials for some time concerning a second visit to Iran, anobjective mentioned in his reports to the Commission at itsfifty-second session (E/CN.4/1996/59)and to the General Assembly atits fifty-first session (A/51/479 and Add.1). He was encouraged tothink that an invitation would be forthcoming but, on 30 December1996, he was informed that this was not to be. The oral messagedelivered to him at that time was as follows:
ÒWe welcomed the appointment by the Commission on HumanRights of Professor Maurice Copithorne as Special Representative andperceived it as a good opportunity for extensive cooperation. Webelieved that the Commission would also be able to respond positivelyand adopt an impartial and objective approach. Based on thisperception, we spared no effort to extend our fullest cooperation tothe Special Representative as well as the Special Rapporteur onfreedom of opinion and expression and the Special Rapporteur onreligious intolerance by, inter alia, inviting them to visitthe country.
ÒRegrettably, the resolution adopted by vote during thefifty-second session (resolution 1996/84) treated the question in thetraditional and subjective manner without an appropriate account ofthe views of the Special Representative and thematic rapporteurs; theresult was detrimental to the renewed confidence and cooperation.
ÒAlthough most of the sponsors of the resolution on Iranseemed to be inclined to introduce a more balanced resolution, a fewwho were pursuing their own political objectives succeeded inobstructing a reasonable consensus resolution. This trend indicatesthat the approach adopted by the Special Representative is notcommensurate to the approach by the Commission under the presentcircumstances. In fact, for those few States whose politicallymotivated positions have thus far prevailed at the Commission, thereports of the Special Representative are only relevant in so far asthey reinforce their prejudgments and pre-drawn conclusions. Hence,for the present, a further visit to the Islamic Republic of Iranseems to be of little avail.
ÒWe, once again, reiterate our firm conviction to continueour full cooperation with the Special Representative in various formsand believe that trust and confidence can be restored, provided thatthe Commission reflects on this situation in accordance with its ownobjectives, as set forth in a large number of its resolutions anddecisions.Ó
10. On the occasion that this message was delivered to the SpecialRepresentative, he was advised that no invitation for him to visitIran would be forthcoming at that time. Nevertheless, if the SpecialRepresentative wished to make enquiries about particular subjectswhich he judged relevant to the human rights situation in Iran, everyeffort would be made to send appropriate experts from Iran to meetwith him in Geneva. In the event, however, this was apparently notpossible. Nevertheless, the Special Represenative was provided withsome written material on subjects of interest to him. The contentshave, as appropriate, been incorporated in this report.
11. The Special Representative regrets the decision of theGovernment of the Islamic Republic not to invite him to visit Iran atthis time, that is before the preparation of his second report to theCommission. He indicated in his first report that his short visit toIran in February 1996 was an introductory one and that a second andlonger visit within 12 months was an important element in hisapproach to the fulfilment of his mandate. The cooperation beingaccorded on this occasion, that is in the preparation of his secondreport, is no substitute for a visit to Iran. The SpecialRepresentative believes that it is his responsibility, nevertheless,to make the best of the situation and to prepare this report on thebasis of all the information otherwise available to him.
12. On occasion, the Special Representative has been criticizedfor placing too much weight on incidents at the expense of trends.The Special Representative accepts that incidents taken out ofcontext can be misleading and indeed that the media - in any society- tend to give undue weight to the violent, to the outrageous, to thenegative, to what they deem newsworthy, at the expense of theprosaic, the positive developments that are occurring in everydaylife. The Special Representative accepts the dangers of relying onthe media and on disgruntled opponents. Used prudently, however,information from all sources, including these, can be indicative oftrends. In the case of Iran, suggestive incidents are too numerous toignore.
13. The liveliness of mind so characteristic of Iranians ensuresthat there will be differing opinions on many subjects. And certainlyin today's Iran ambiguities abound, permitting the exploitation ofwhat have been called islands of liberty. However, tolerance inpolitics, in religion and in some areas of lifestyle is anothermatter. In those sectors, freedom of expression is more tenuous. Theconcept of a loyal opposition, that is the acceptance of individualsor groups publicly exposing different and sometimes sharply contraryviews to those of the Government, has yet to be embraced to ameaningful degree. The Special Representative has reason to believethat too often critics of the status quo are denounced and in somecases imprisoned under charges of common criminal conduct or ofdisloyalty to Islam or the State. The term civil society is oftenused to describe a society in which tolerance not only exists but isactively nourished. It is a process, afundamental tenet ofresponsible government that must be actively embraced by governmentregardless of how unpopular toleration may be from time to time amongsections of the public, sometimes large sections. Intolerance in thename of popularism is still intolerance.
14. It is of course the mandate of a Special Representative tocatalogue the current state of human rights in the country concerned.There is another optic through which to view human rights, aprospective one; that is to say, as a series of goals to be achieved.The Special Representative believes this optic should not be ignoredand accordingly he attempts to identify signs of change, bothpositive and negative. [backto the contents]
I. THE SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE'S ACTIVITIES ANDSOURCES
15. On 16 April 1996, the Special Representative introduced hisfirst report to the Commission on Human Rights (E/CN.4/1996/59). Hereturned to Geneva on three occasions, from 28 to 31 May 1996, from26 to 30 August 1996 and from 29 December 1996 to 8 January 1997 inorder to conduct a number of consultations, to participate in thethird meeting of special rapporteurs, special representatives,experts and chairmen of working groups of the Commission, which tookplace from 28 to 30 May 1996, and to draft his interim report to theGeneral Assembly (A/51/479 and Add. 1) and the present report to theCommission. On 2 and 3 September 1996, the Special Representativeheld conversations in Vienna with senior officials of the CrimePrevention and Criminal Justice Branch. On 15 November 1996, heintroduced his interim report to the Third Committee of the GeneralAssembly in New York.
16. While in Geneva and New York, the Special Representative heldconsultations with representatives of the Islamic Republic of Iran,officials of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights/Centrefor Human Rights and of the Office of the United Nations HighCommissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and representatives of severalnon-governmental organizations. He also received representations frominterested persons concerning alleged human rights violations inIran.
17. In seeking to fulfil his mandate, the Special Representativehas looked to many sources for information, including the Governmentof the Islamic Republic of Iran, other Governments, individuals,non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the Iranian andinternational media. In Geneva and New York, the SpecialRepresentative held interviews with representatives of several NGOs,among them, Amnesty International, Baha'i International Community,Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (DPIK), Human RightsWatch/Middle East, International Educational Development, Inc, Leaguefor the Defence of Human Rights in Iran, National Council ofResistance of Iran, Organization for Defending Victims of Violenceand Organization of Iranian People's Fedaian (Majority).
18. The correspondence between the Special Representative and thePermanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to theUnited Nations Office in Geneva during the period October1996-January 1997 is set out in the annex to the present report. Itbasically concerns government replies to several requests forinformation by the Special Representative on individual cases.[back to thecontents]
II. THE STATUS OF WOMEN
19. In his report to the Commission at its fifty-second session,the Special Representative referred to the underlying debate on thestatus of women in Muslim countries and Iran in particular. Hereferred to the distinction made between custom based and religionbased norms. The situation of women in Iran has been frequentlydescribed in such reports as those of the Special Representative'spredecessor, as well as those submitted at the Beijing Conference bywomen's NGOs from within and outside of Iran. The legal and practicaldisabilities under which women in Iran live have been clearlyoutlined. The Special Representative does not consider he hasanything to add to these conclusions but instead, will look primarilyat the current state of discourse on women in Iran, as well as theprospects for change.
20. Before doing that, however, he wishes to make some moregeneral comments, particularly on the nature of equality. Mostsocieties in early stages of development viewed equality as meaningsimilar treatment for those similarly situated, the so-calledÒlikeÓ treatment model. This view of equality defined aperson by personal characteristics such as gender, race or religion,and accorded each group different categories of rights. These groupswere judged to be ÒunlikeÓ, thus justifyingdifferential treatment. Now, however, it is widely accepted that thisinterpretation of equality served to perpetuate inequality in itssubstantive sense, that is between persons as human beings, andaccordingly denied a full measure of human dignity to the members ofthe affected groups.
21. There is also the issue of whether equality of rights equalsidenticality of status, a question the Special Representative notedin his last report. To begin with, it is clear that the projection ofa relationship of complementarity between the roles of men and womencannot be substituted for the basic principle of equality. It is alsoaccepted, however, that gender equality may not require identicaltreatment in every case, and indeed may require differentialtreatment in order to achieve substantive equality. In short, thegoal of substantive equality may require differential treatment inorder to assist affected groups to achieve this goal. The SpecialRepresentative does not accept the non-identicality argument as abasis for treatment that is in substantive respects discriminatory.To sum up, it is perhaps appropriate to recall the aphorism that therights of women are not to be viewed as Òwomen'srightsÓ, but as Òhuman rightsÓ.
22. The Special Representative wishes to reiterate what he said inhis first report, i.e. that he believes that the status of women inthe Islamic Republic is indeed not equal to that of men in very manyways; there is no doubt that universal norms are involved, and thatcompliance with such norms can take account of but cannot be excusedby considerations of culture.
23. Is this the end of the matter? The Special Representativethinks not. To begin with, he would note the view of some scholarsoutside of Iran that the status of women has been gradually andquietly improving from that imposed in the aftermath of the IslamicRevolution. Such accounts point to access -for the middle class atleast - to tertiary education and to employment, to the attitudetowards family planning, and to amendments to the law with regard
to polygyny and divorce. In each of these areas the argument goes,there remain serious problems, but there has at least been movementin the right direction.
24. There are some areas in which the movement appears to beretrogressive, such as that of Òimproper veilingÓ.There appear to be differences of view, drawing on religion and onculture, as to the appropriateness of norms concerning hijab, andparticularly the tolerance with which such norms are applied. Thereare allegations of harassment by Al-Zahra teams in the way theyenforce such norms. In the Special Representative's view some moretolerant regime needs to be introduced, one that would respectnon-conforming behaviour.
25. In Iran today, public debate on the status of women seems tobe growing more vigorous, particularly as more women speak out, andsome measure of change appears to be occurring in the legal regime.There is clearly considerable tension on this issue and it is tooearly to quantify the progress that is being made. Information in theIranian and the international press, as well as information suppliedto the Special Representative by the Government, offers the followingstraws in the wind:
(a) The election to the Fifth Majlis of 10 women members, with thepossibility of more being elected in the re-elections being held in anumber of constituencies;
(b) The election of a woman to a seat in the Fifth Majlis, withthe second highest number of votes in the Tehran constituency;
(c) The creation of a Women's Commission by the Fifth Majlis, toconsist of 13 members of whom a majority would be women;
(d) The apparently uncontroverted statements, in the context ofthe current run-up to the presidential elections, that there is noreligious impediment in Islam to a woman becoming President of theRepublic;
(e) The adoption by the Majlis of amendments to the law concerningMarieh (the marriage payment owed by the husband to the wife),a subject which reportedly has until now been regarded as theexclusive prerogative of clerics;
(f) The adoption of new laws or regulations on family allowancesfor working and retired women, on the provision of support to workingnursing mothers and on extending pre-maternity leave to fourmonths;
(g) Public criticism of the Guardian Council for having no womenamong its members;
(h) The number of substantive articles appearing in women'smagazines, some written by clerics, appearing to advocate significantchange in the Government's attitude to women;
(i) Continuing reports that while there may be disagreements amongwomen's groups about their approaches to change, there is a sharedirritation at the patriarchal control of Islamic tradition, that isto say the control by men of the authenticity process;
(j) The recent appointment of a woman district mayor inTehran;
(k) The announcement of a forthcoming bill on civil status andother issues relating to the family and women;
(l) The proposal reported to be before the Cabinet that Iranaccede to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms ofDiscrimination against Women;
(m) The active discussions in New York between the Iranianauthorities and the Division for the Advancement of Women abouttechnical assistance, including participation in a joint workshop inTehran in February 1997.
26. In conclusion, the Special Representative believes there is aclimate for change in Iran concerning the status of women. There isprobably considerable opposition to such a prospect both within andoutside the Government, and indeed, among those favouring change,human rights concerns may be only one of several considerations.Further, if and when significant change happens, it may be uneven. Insum, Iran has considerable distance to go to bring itself intocompliance with international standards, but there are clear signsthat this may be a time for progress to be made. The change must bereal and the momentum must be sustained. [backto the contents]
III. LEGAL SUBJECTS
A. The deathpenalty
27. The sentence of death and/or its implementation seem tocontinue at a high rate. Some external reports have asserted that thenumbers in 1996 were twice those of 1995. On several occasions theSpecial Representative has asked for official statistics in thisregard, but has so far received no response. Many of the deathsentences are reportedly imposed for drug trafficking. Recently,there has been an upsurge in allegations of spying, which can carrythe death penalty, as some recent cases have.
28. The imposition of the death penalty in Iran has come in forcriticism for its apparent high rate, the range of sometimesambiguous offences for which it is imposed, the haste with which itis sometimes carried out and the use of public hangings. The SpecialRepresentative would note the statement provided to him by Iranianauthorities that public execution is demanded by neither religion norlaw.
29. It is clear that the present situation with regard to thedeath penalty is not in accord with international norms in thisregard. The Special Representative is concerned that on this subjectit does not appear that progress is being made towards recognizing infull measure the right to life. [backto the contents]
B. Politicalprisoners/prisoners of conscience
30. Senior Iranian officials have reiterated that there are nopolitical prisoners in Iran. As the term ÒpoliticalprisonerÓ appears to be difficult to define in objectiveterms, the Special Representative prefers the term Òprisonersof conscienceÓ. This is generally defined as Òthose whohave been detained because of their race, religion, politics,language, beliefs or for similar reasons, and have neither used noradvocated violenceÓ. This definition is also open todifficulties of application chiefly because, arguably, it requires adetermination of the intent of the person or organization effectingthe detention. However, in the view of the Special Representative,certain inferences can and should be drawn where no other crediblereason for the detention can be shown to exist.
31. There are widespread allegations that there remain at leastsome prisoners of conscience in Iranian jails. The SpecialRepresentative believes it is important that the Government addressseriously allegations in this respect brought to its attention byresponsible sources. The Special Representative will continue hisexisting practice of seeking information in certain cases andexpresses the hope that the Government will provide replies whichspeak to the context of the allegations rather that reiterating thenarrow or ambiguous terms of the legal charges. [backto the contents]
32. In his report to the Commission at its fifty-second sessionand to the General Assembly at its fifty-first session, the SpecialRepresentative noted that serious concern for the well-being of anumber of clerics was being expressed by interested groups outsidethe country. The Special Representative published in his reports thenames as given to him, and has requested information about some ofthe cases. The information provided was published as annex VII todocument E/CN.4/1996/59. Further developments were reported inparagraphs 32 and 33 of document A/51/479, including some releases.Since that time, it has been reported that Hojatolislam SheikhFaadhel Faadheli disappeared from his house in Qom in early September1996. The best estimate the Special Representative has received isthat 17 clerics are under detention.
33. The Special Representative has taken note of the informationprovided by the Government with regard to these detentions. He wouldobserve, however, that all the other reports coming to his attentionhave identified a common feature, that is, the support of most ofthese individuals for Grand Ayatollah Shirazi, and the demand ofthose detaining them that the detainees make a public confession thatthey and the Grand Ayatollah are cooperating with foreign powers.There are also allegations of physical and mental torture. Two ofthose detained are reportedly sons of the Grand Ayatollah.
34. The Special Representative believes that notwithstanding theinformation provided by the Government, there is sufficientcredibility to the allegations that further inquiry is warranted. Hewould therefore recommend that, as the charges are essentially of anordinary criminal nature, they be transferred to
the jurisdiction of the general courts, that they be heard inpublic session and the accused be accorded the declared right of allaccused to independent legal representation. [backto the contents]
35. Most societies have clearly established procedures, ofteninvolving police permits, for private groups to conduct theiractivities in public places. The activity is usually regarded as anexercise of the right to free expression, an important civil right.In most societies there are clearly understood thresholds ofacceptable conduct; one is the threat or use of violence, another istaking the law into private hands, in other words vigilantism.
36. In Iran there appear to be a number of groups, private orsemi-private in nature, which, in the espousal of particular pointsof view or causes, do from time to time exceed the threshold ofpeaceful expression of opinion. The Special Representative continuesto receive reports of groups such as the Ansar-e Hizbullah resortingto violence and threats of violence upon private individuals as ameans of coercion. There is a clear distinction to be made betweenactivity which can be categorized as peaceful exhortation of variouscivic virtues, and the use of coercion. The Special Representativenotes that, according to the press, one senior cleric continues toincite such conduct even to the point of urging the disregard of theestablished laws of the country. The Government, for its part, hasadvised the Special Representative that State agencies do makeserious efforts to control excessive activities by such groups. TheSpecial Representative will follow with interest the success of suchefforts. [back to thecontents]
E. Amendments to theIslamic Criminal Code
37. In his previous reports, the Special Representative noted thata number of changes had been made in the criminal regime in Iran,particularly with regard to punishments. The Special Representativehad received conflicting information as to the nature of theseamendments, but he had nevertheless concluded on an interim basisthat they appeared to represent a toughening of criminalsanctions.
38. The Special Representative had hoped to discuss this matter indetail with the Iranian authorities in the course of a visit to Iran,but this opportunity was of course not made available to him.Nevertheless, the Iranian authorities did provide him in January 1997with the full text in Persian of the amendments, which he is nowhaving translated, and subsequently with a review of the recentchanges in English with the comment that the regime has in fact beensoftened. The Special Representative will comment further on thismatter in another report. [backto the contents]
F. Other legalmatters
The right to seek a pardon, a commutation and an appeal
39. It is not evident to the Special Representative how this rightis assured, the procedure to be followed, or the numbers of personswho benefit from such provisions. There is a need for greatertransparency in this respect.
Presumption of innocence
40. The Special Representative notes that article 37 of theConstitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran establishes thispresumption. There is a need to know how this critical human rightstenet is assured in practice.
Matters of proof
41. More needs to be known about the application of the four typesof proof in the Iranian legal system, confession, testimony, oath andÒknowledge of the judgeÓ. In particular, there is awidely prevalent concern that confessions may often be obtained bycoercion, and that the Òtestimony of righteous menÓeffectively excludes women and religious minorities.
42. The use of torture Òfor the purpose of extractingconfessions or gaining informationÓ is prohibited underarticle 38 of the Constitution. However, there remain widespreadallegations that such practices continue. It is important that theGovernment address these allegations in a substantive manner ratherthan by simple denial. One procedure open to the Government is torefer such allegations to the Islamic Human Rights Commission, andthen publish the conclusions of the Commission.
Cruel and unusual punishment
43. There continue to be Iranian press reports of the applicationof corporal punishments. Such punishments, including in particularstoning and amputations, are clearly contrary to existinginternational norms. The Special Representative agrees with those whodo not accept the argument that such punishments can be deemed lawfulsimply because they may have been authorized in a procedurallylegitimate manner. [back tothe contents]
IV. FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
44. There is in Iran a lively debate about many public issues,including the freedom of expression itself. It is clear that thesometimes implicit, sometimes explicit, boundaries of politicalcorrectness are being challenged by the media, particularly byjournalists and writers.
45. According to information reaching the Special Representative,the number of disciplinary actions against newspapers and magazines,their editors and publishers, has been increasing. At least fivenewspapers were closed earlier in 1996 following procedures that weresaid to have been inconsistent withIranian law. In at least some ofthese cases, the closure order was overturned on appeal. In August,disciplinary procedures were launched against Reza Tehrani, theeditor of another publication, Keyan, for publishing falseinformation. The editor of Adineh, Faraj Sarkouhi, reportedlydisappeared at Tehran airport for some six weeks. Mr. Sarkouhi andhis brother Ishmael were reportedly rearrested on 27 January 1997 andextracts from a letter dated 3 January from Faraj Sarkouhi reportedon his mistreatment during his earlier detention. Mohammed HosseinTahmasbpour, an Azeri language poet, was reported to have disappearedand Dr. Mehdi Parham, a translator and writer, was said to have beenarrested.
46. In November, an Iranian monthly reported a speech by AliLarijani, the head of the radio and television organization, whichappeared to espouse tighter control over the media on the groundsthat current trends could threaten the destruction of the IslamicRepublic and the Islamic State. With regard to the publication ofbooks, the press reported a very senior figure as having statedstated that Òthe criterion for the rejection of a book, is itsdegree of harm; prevention of infiltration of corruption into thebody and soul of every single citizen of society is an important dutyof the Government. Therefore, as far as publication of a book isconcerned, the author does not own all the rights but there is ahigher right belonging to the masses of readers, and it is on thisclear basis that the issue of considering (censorship) of books hasbecome an important necessityÓ. The Special Representative hasalso noted the statement quoted in the Iranian press in January 1997of Ali Rabii, a member of the board of a new journalists'association, that its objectives include the defending of Òthematerial and spiritual rights of journalistsÓ.
47. The Special Representative acknowledges that the line to bedrawn between the security of the State and the interests of thesociety on the one hand and the right of fair comment on the other isoften a matter of controversy. A not infrequent approach is to usethe courts or an independent tribunal to determine whether the linehas been crossed. Recent reports suggest that in Iran the Press Lawjury regime which does provide for appeal to the courts is otherwiseworking imperfectly, and that the censorship of books and filmscripts is arbitrary. Some better regime needs to be found, one thatis independent, transparent, predictable of procedure, free ofcorporal sanctions, in short, credible. [backto the contents]
V. THE FATWA AGAINST SALMAN RUSHDIE
48. The Special Representative understands that, while theGovernment of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the European Unionremain in contact on this matter, there is little progress toreport.
49. The Special Representative notes that, according to an Iranianpress report in September, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of theIslamic Republic issued a press statement that the Government wouldnot send agents abroad to carry out the fatwa. [backto the contents]
VI. THE SITUATION OF THE BAHA'IS
50. The Special Representative has continued to receive reports ofcases of grave breaches of the human rights of the Baha'is in Iranand of situations of discrimination against the members of thisreligious community, including arbitrary detentions, refusal of entryto universities, dismissals from employment and confiscation ofproperties.
51. According to the information received, 12 Baha'is continue tobe held in Iranian prisons allegedly because of their beliefs, amongthem Mr. Bihnam Mithaqi and Mr. Kayvan Khalajabadi, who were visitedby the Special Representative in Evin prison in February 1996. TheSpecial Representative was informed that after his visit the SupremeCourt confirmed the death sentences against them. They are reportedto have written to the public prosecutor asking for the verdict to berescinded.
52. The Special Representative was recently informed that theSupreme Court had confirmed the death sentences imposed by theIslamic Revolutionary Courts, on charges that reportedly includeapostasy, against Mr. Dhabihu'llah Mahrami and Mr. Musa Talibi. Mr.Mahrami has been moved from the prison of the Islamic RevolutionaryCourt of Yazd to that of the Security Information Department. Mr.Talibi has been transferred from the prison of Isfahan to Evin prisonin Tehran. Mr. Talibi was arrested on 7 June 1994 and was firstsentenced to one and a half years' imprisonment because of hismembership in the Baha'i community. However, the public prosecutorobjected to the lightness of the sentence, stating that noconsideration had been given to the fact that he had abandoned Islamand was consequently an apostate. The Special Representative has senta joint appeal together with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial,summary or arbitrary executions to the Permanent Representative ofthe Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations Office in Genevaconcerning the cases of Messrs. Mahrami and Talibi. The charge ofapostasy against another Baha'i, Mr. Ramidan'Ali Dhulfaqari, has notbeen dealt with.
53. During 1996 the following Baha'is were arrested allegedlybecause of their religious beliefs and remain in detention: Mr.Mansur Haddadan and Mr. Kamyar Ruhi, arrested in Mashhad on 29February 1996; Mr. Arman Damishqi and Mr. Kurush Dhabihi, arrested inearly 1996 in Gohardasht; Mr. Babu'llah Farji, arrested on 7 October1996 in Qa'im Shahr; Mr. Nasir Iqaniyan, arrested in Simnan on 22October 1996; Mr. Bihnam Rida'i, arrested also in Simnan on 31October 1996 and Mr. Nasir Haqtalab, arrested in Mashhad on 31October 1996. Mr. Bakhshullah Mithaqi, who was supposed to bereleased in August 1996 according to his sentence, continues to beheld in prison. Other Baha'is were arrested and detained for shortperiods in various cities of the country. The practice of summoningof Baha'is to the Ministry of Intelligence agencies on variouspretexts was also reported.
54. Cases of discrimination against Baha'is in the Iranian courtsystem continue to be reported. In addition to the cases mentioned inthe Special Representative's interim report (A/51/479, para. 25), theSpecial Representative was informed that a recent verdict of BranchNo. 23 of the Central Public Court of Tehran prevented a Baha'i fromreceiving her share in the inheritance following the death of herdaughter Òbecause she has franklyadmitted to the Court thatshe is a Baha'iÓ. The Office of the Tehran Civil CourtRegistry had previously issued a certification of inheritance statingthat the only heir of the deceased was her husband Òbecausethe other inheritors are Baha'is, and subject to article No. 881 ...of the Civil CodeÓ.
55. The Special Representative was informed that the privateownership of property by Baha'is continues to be generallydisregarded. In Yazd alone there were reportedly more than 150 casesrelating to the confiscation of property during 1996. The majority ofthe Baha'is in Yazd are now prohibited from conducting any businesstransactions. In Kashan, a mosque was built on land confiscated fromBaha'is. Pharmacies owned by Baha'is in Sari and Qa'im Shahr werereportedly closed down and sealed.
56. The Special Representative considers that the implementationof the recommendations contained in the report submitted to theCommission on Human Rights at its fifty-second session by the SpecialRapporteur on the question of religious intolerance on his visit tothe Islamic Republic of Iran (E/CN.4/1996/95/Add.2) would constitutean important first step in the improvement of the situation ofIranian Baha'is.
57. Specifically, the recommendations concerned the urgentrevision of the death sentences passed on Baha'is and thepromulgation of amnesties or other appropriate measures to preventthe enforcement of the penalties imposed; the end of discriminationin the access to education in higher educational establishments or toemployment in the administration; and the elimination from passportapplication forms of the question on religion, to guarantee thefreedom of movement (E/CN.4/1996/95/Add.2, paras. 107, 109 and 112).[back to thecontents]
VII. OTHER IMPORTANT MATTERS
A. Human rightsinstitutions in Iran
58. In response to an enquiry by the Special Representative, theIranian authorities provided information on the activities of theIslamic Human Rights Commission over the past 10 months. Some ofthese are set out below:
(i)Pursuing issues related to minorities, including education,property rights, passports, etc.;
(ii)Responding to problems brought to its attention by, interalia, claimants through the provision of advisory services andpursuing the matters with the judiciary. It has pursued over 1,000complaints;
(iii)Providing human rights education for officials of the legalsystem, including judges and prison guards;
(iv)Undertaking a public human rights education programme throughthe mass media, etc.;
(v)Preparation of a specialized periodical on human rights to belaunched shortly;
(vi)Recommending the establishment of a juvenile court for Tehran,which has now been done.
59. The Special Representative has also noted a statement byHojatolislam Abbasifard, the President of the Commission, in a pressinterview that the Commission had proposed that all instancesdeclared by international organizations as human rights violationsshould be collected, examined and reviewed, and a comprehensivereport prepared for the authorities concerned for necessarydecisions. The Special Representative views this as a positivedevelopment and looks forward to discussing the work of theCommission with Hojatolislam Abbasifard in person on the occasion ofa visit to Iran. [back to thecontents]
B.Violence outside the Islamic Republic of Iran
60. Information reaching the Special Representative suggests thatextraterritorial violence against Iranians continues. The SpecialRepresentative has noted a number of these incidents in his report tothe Commission at its fifty-second session and in his interim reportto the General Assembly at its fifty-first session. In some of theresulting legal proceedings in foreign courts, a strong connection tothe Government of the Islamic Republic is being asserted; theGovernment of the Islamic Republic denies involvement in any of theseincidents. [back to thecontents]
C.The situation of certain religious minorities
61. The Special Representative has received information thatsuggests the leaders of certain religious minority groups are underpressure. They include Sunni clerics of Baluchi ethnicity, some ofwhom appear to have died under suspicious circumstances. Iranianofficials note that Sistan-Baluchistan is beset by drug trafficking.The most recent case brought to the Special Representative'sattention was that of Abdol-Aziz Kazemi Vajd, whose body was found on5 November 1996 outside of Zahedan.
62. In western Iran, Molla Mohammad Rabiei, a Sunni cleric inKermanshah is reported to have died in circumstances thatprecipitated demonstrations which led to deaths and a significantnumber of arrests. The Iranian authorities advised the SpecialRepresentative that an autopsy had concluded the death of Rabiei wasthe result of a heart attack (see annex).
63. With regard to other religious groups, the body of aProtestant clergyman, Mohammad Bagher Yussefi, was found insuspicious circumstances in Mazandaran. The Iranian authoritiesadvised the Special Representative that an investigation hadconcluded that the death was a suicide (see annex).
64. The Special Representative addresses the situation of theBaha'is in a separate section of this report (see sect. VIabove).
65. The Special Representative has in earlier reports referred tothe report of the Special Rapporteur on the question of religiousintolerance of 9 February 1996 (E/CN.4/1996/95/Add.2) and inparticular the Special Rapporteur's recommendations. The SpecialRepresentative calls upon the Government and the Islamic Human RightsCommission to address this situation with an urgency that reflectsits seriousness. [back to thecontents]
66. In his interim report to the General Assembly, the SpecialRepresentative noted that the Fifth Majlis election results had beenannulledby the Guardian Council in a number of constituencies. Freshelections are being held in 22 constituencies on 7 February 1997.Three hundred persons filed nomination papers.
67. The Special Representative is informed that, in accordancewith the Constitution, there will be an election for President of theIslamic Republic in 1997, probably in June. The term is four yearsand there is a limit of two terms. The presidential election law laysout the requisite qualifications of the candidates, provides that theGuardian Council will monitor all aspects of the election, andprovides for the establishment of a government commission to ensureequal access for all candidates to public facilities.
68. According to the press, several candidates have declaredthemselves and others are expected to do so. The Secretary-General ofthe Freedom Movement of Iran is reported to have stated that thatparty would participate in the elections. [backto the contents]
69. At various places in this report, the Special Representativehas recommended certain measures to strengthen the enjoyment of humanrights in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Some of these are reiteratedbelow in summary form.
70. The Special Representative recommends that:
(a) The Government takes a leadership role in effecting change inpublic attitudes to the status of women in Iran, and to change in thelegal regime that will lead to substantive and acceleratingimprovement in the status of women.
(b) The charges against a number of Shia clerics be transferred tothe general courts, that they be heard in public session and that theaccused be accorded the declared right of all accused to independentlegal representation.
(c) The press law regime, as well as that applicable to books andmovie scripts, be reviewed as a matter of priority to introducegreater certainty and transparency, and to ensure itsindependence.
(d) As there continues to be doubt about the security of certainreligious minorities in Iran, there needs to be urgent attention paidto the 1996 recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on the questionof religious intolerance.
(e) Accelerated consideration be given to Iranian requests forinternational technical assistance in several areas, as recommendedby the Special Representative in earlier reports. [backto the contents]
71. The Special Representative still believes Iran to be a dynamicsociety in which, on many subjects, a wide variety of views are heldand, to varying degrees, are tolerated by the Government whenexpressed publicly. Nevertheless, there is no doubt in the SpecialRepresentative's mind that violations of generally accepted humanrights norms are occurring in Iran and that in some cases, by act ofcommission or omission, the Government must bear responsibility forthem. Some believe that progress is being made in this regard and theSpecial Representative has tried to highlight some of the areas inwhich this may be the case. Iranian authorities are quick to point tothe debilitating impact on Iran of the eight-year war and of theinflux of Afghan refugees. The implication is that, taking thesefactors into account, Iran is in fact making good progress in thefield of human rights. However, the impression remains that theGovernment seems to believe that State and government security haveprecluded a more active promotion of human rights. It is not for aspecial representative to judge a Government's perception of securityconsiderations, but it is his mandate to point out, as is the case inIran, that human rights, having been left behind, now require urgentand sustained attention. [backto the contents]
CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN THE PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ISLAMICREPUBLIC OF IRAN TO THE UNITED NATIONS OFFICE IN GENEVA AND THESPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE
1. Pursuant to several requests for information from the SpecialRepresentative concerning individual cases, the PermanentRepresentative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United NationsOffice in Geneva sent the following letters to the SpecialRepresentative.
2. By a letter dated 22 October 1996, the Permanent Representativeof the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations Office inGeneva replied to a letter from the Special Representative dated 24July 1996 as follows:
ÒReferring to your letter dated 24 July 1996, I would liketo draw your kind attention to the following information receivedfrom Tehran:
ÒThe charges of the Zendedel band, in acting against thenational security of the country, are as follows:
(a) Establishing, leading and collaborating in a network forembezzlement, bribery, fraud and plundering public properties;
(b) Collaborating in smuggling of people with false documents;
(c) Active participation in channelling of classified militaryinformation to foreigners, under the disguise of militarycontracts;
(d) Collaborating and participating in forging various documents,including property registration documents, ID cards, marriagecertificates, letters of proxy, etc;
(e) Forging signatures as well as misappropriation of forgeddocuments.
After due process of law, the preliminary court found him guiltyand he was sentenced to death. At present Mr. Zendedel's case, hasbeen sent to the Supreme Court for review.Ó
3. The Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran tothe United Nations Office in Geneva, by means of a letter dated 21January 1997, replied to a second letter from the SpecialRepresentative, dated 7 January 1997 concerning this case. The letterread as follows:
"With reference to your letter dated 7 January 1997, I would liketo provide you with the following information received fromauthorities in Tehran:
ÒTaking into account the relevant international instrumentsand in compliance with due process of law, the Judiciary has takenall necessary actions to ensure that the defendants in the Zendedelcasewould benefit from all safeguards and get a fair trial. In factprolongation of the legal proceedings is but a proof of thisconviction.Ó
4. In response to a letter from the Special Representative dated19 July 1996 concerning the possible execution of Mr. Rahnam RadjabiHamvand, the Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iranto the United Nations Office in Geneva, by means of a letter dated 22October 1996, informed the Special Representative of thefollowing:
ÒReferring to your letter dated 19 July 1996, I would liketo provide you with the following information received fromTehran:
ÒMr. Rahman Radjaby Hamvand was arrested on charges ofactive membership in an armed terrorist group, involvement inassassination of civilian individuals, robbery and creating anatmosphere of terror in Kurdestan Province. After due process of law,he was sentenced to death in accordance with article 186 of theIslamic Penal Law. The death sentence was confirmed by the SupremeCourt and given the magnitude of his crimes his appeal for clemencywas not accepted. Accordingly, on 29 July 1996, the sentence wascarried out in Uromieh Prison.Ó
5. The Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran tothe United Nations Office in Geneva, by means of a letter dated 22October 1996, replied to the Special Representative's letter of 19April 1996 concerning the alleged arbitrary arrest of Mrs.Ashrafossadat Mir-Hosseini, as follows:
ÒReferring to your letter dated 19 April 1996, I would liketo draw your kind attention to the following information receivedfrom Tehran:
ÒMs. Ashrafossadat Mir-Hosseini was arrested with a warrantissued by the court on charges of establishing a corruption centre,where she was serving alcohol and drugs.
ÒAfter several days in detention, she was released onbail.Ó
6. On 12 December 1996, the Permanent Representative of theIslamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations Office in Geneva senta letter to the Special Representative, which read as follows:
Ò(a) All allegations about Mr. Shahram Sepehri-Fard arecategorically denied. He, a conscript serving in prison, was arrestedon 11 July 1996 on charges of immoral behaviour and maltreatment ofprisoners. After due process of law, the court found him guilty. Hewas later released on 14 August 1996.
Ò(b) Mr. Yasoubadin Rastaghari was arrested on charges ofacting against national security and public order, anddisinformation. After due process of law, he was found guilty andsentenced to ten years of banishment. He was later pardoned andreleased. Committing the same offences, he was again arrested andsentenced to five years ofbanishment in Yazd. He then left Yazdwithout giving prior notice to the relevant authorities, for which hewas sentenced by the court to two years of imprisonment. At present,he is serving his term.Ó
7. The Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran tothe United Nations Office in Geneva, by means of a letter dated 29December 1996, transmitted the following information:
ÒOn 28 September 1996, Pastor Mohammad Bagher Yussefi(Ravanbakhsh) was found hanging from a tree in Shirgah Road inMazandaran Province.
ÒHis corpse was sent to Mazandaran Forensic Department forautopsy. In accordance with the autopsy report, confirmed also byTehran Forensic Department, he died as a result of suffocation.
ÒThe police found a letter on him stating that, due tofamily problems, he had decided to commit suicide and no one wasresponsible for his death. The authenticity of his handwriting wasconfirmed by his wife and the experts.
ÒThe police also concluded that the letter had been writtenby him.Ó
8. By letter dated 6 January 1997, the Permanent Representative ofthe Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations Office in Genevatransmitted the following information to the Special Representativeconcerning the death of Mr. Ahmad Mir Alaee:
ÒMr. Ahmad Mir Alaee, 53 years old, did not have anyprevious criminal record. Following his death, his corpse was sent tothe Forensic Department of Isfahan Province for autopsy. A thoroughexamination was carried out on his body. In accordance with theautopsy report, there existed no bruises or any trace of suffocation.A toxicology test was also carried out. The test indicated that therewas no trace of poisoning. At the end, taking into account all thefindings, the examining doctors concluded that heart failure was thecause of his death.
ÒMeanwhile, his family attended a special court and statedthat regarding his death they are not suspicious ofanyone.Ó
9. Pursuant to the Special Representative's request forinformation concerning Mr. Sepehr Sanjabi, the PermanentRepresentative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United NationsOffice in Geneva sent a letter dated 21 January 1997 to the SpecialRepresentative, which read as follows:
ÒIn accordance with the inquiries by the police, the realname of Mr. Sepher Sanjabi is Sattar Zanganeh and he has never beenarrested.Ó
10. Lastly, by letter dated 21 January 1997, the PermanentRepresentative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United NationsOffice in Geneva informed the Special Representative of thefollowing:
ÒIn accordance with the autopsy report, Mr. Molla MohammadRabiei died as the result of a heart attack. The autopsy was carriedout by the Kermanshah Forensic Department and in the presence ofrepresentatives of the judiciary, family members, some Sunniphysicians and Sunni clergy.Ó
11. The Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iranto the United Nations Office in Geneva also transmitted to theSpecial Representative, by letters dated 12 December 1996, 3 January1997, 9 January 1997 and 10 January 1997, general informationconcerning the judiciary, political rights and the election laws, thesituation of women, the activities of the Islamic Human RightsCommission during 1996 and information on various subjects ofrelevance to the mandate of the Special Representative. A copy inPersian of the law containing the recent amendments to the IslamicPenal Code was also sent to the Special Representative, by letterdated 6 January 1997.