UNITED NATIONS— The U.N. Special Rapporteur for assessing the human rights situation in Iran has warned of “the systemic and systematic violations” of a wide range of rights in that country.
Ahmed Shaheed told the U.N. General Assembly committee that deals with such issues he hopes the new Iranian president will implement promised reforms to improve the situation.
Ahmed Shaheed said he interviewed 137 people during the past year for his report, corroborating information which details human rights violations from gender discrimination to torture, to public executions.
He welcomed overtures from the new president, Hassan Rouhani, and his release of more than a dozen political prisoners, but said much more still needs to be done to remedy a long list of violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
Shaheed cited concerns about the conditions in Iran’s prisons.
“Testimonies continue to recount overcrowding, limited access to sanitation, and inadequate provision of food, water and medical treatment," said Shaheed.
He noted with concern the continuing high rate of executions. During the 18-month period beginning in January 2012, he said some 724 executions took place in Iran. In the past three months alone, the state announced 135 executions. Shaheed called for Iran to suspend use of the death penalty.
“I have called for a moratorium for a number of reasons. One is the large number of deaths. I take the view, that unless although international law allows executions there are safeguards built into it, I am afraid in Iran I do not see these safeguards in operation. That's a very serious concern," he said.
The special rapporteur said journalists and bloggers also face violations of their rights in carrying out their work, noting that 15 journalists have been arrested since January; 67 Internet cafes were closed during the month of July; and up to five million websites are reportedly blocked.
He also noted a disturbing new law that allows a male custodian to marry his female adopted child, raising issues of early and forced marriage.
Shaheed noted severe restrictions to free expression, association and assembly for religious minorities - including Baha’i, Christians, Sunnis and Yarsan.
Iran’s delegate to the meeting said although her government views the work of the special rapporteur as biased and his mandate politically motivated, Tehran has cooperated. But she said the allegations against her government are unfair and the report unbalanced.
The special rapporteur urged Tehran to allow him to visit to discuss the situation. The last time the Iranian government allowed in a special rapporteur was 2005.
Special rapporteurs are independent experts appointed by the U.N. secretary-general to investigate allegations of human rights violations.
Shaheed made several recommendations in his report, and told the committee that if Iran complied with existing laws and implemented the rule of law consistently, many of the issues the international community has with its rights record would disappear.